Happy St. Wenceslas Day!

29 September 2006

Happy St. Wenceslas Day!
Originally uploaded by youplayawhat.
Yesterday we celebrated the "Day of Czech Statehood" (Den české státnosti). Which is to say that most people went on vacation and I walked around looking for signs of a holiday. There weren't many. On the whole, Czechs don't really go all out for national holidays like this. When I walked by the Mahen Theater in the center of Brno, there was only one small banner up. Of course, just because they don't go around flag waving doesn't mean that people don't recognize the holiday. I suspect that about 50% of the city left town for the long weekend. Traffic on Wednesday afternoon before the holiday was horrendous. On Thursday, the official holiday, few people were on the streets, the trams were almost empty, and it seemed more like a Sunday. This "feels like Sunday" atmosphere also came from the church bells—the holiday coincides with St. Wenceslas's name day, and so the day is also something of a religious holiday.* The only crowd I saw yesterday was outside a church. (St. Wenceslas Day has only been recognized as an official state holiday since 2000.)

I suspect that most people who had the option went to their chalupa (country cottage) and were grilling sausages, drinking beer, enjoying the fruits of their summer gardens, and basking in the beautiful weather we've had the past few days. The Czechs certainly know how to relax. (And I hope they won't get too much into flag waving in the foreseeable future.)

*St. Wenceslas, known in Czech as svatý Václav, is one of the patron saints of the country. He was killed by his brother Boleslav in the tenth century CE, supposedly on 28 September 929 (or 935). Legend has it that he will return one day to defend the Czech lands when they are faced with their gravest threat. So far there have been a lot of grave threats—the Habsburgs and Austro-Hungarian domination, WWII, Communism, etc.—but unfortunately (or is it fortunately) since St. W. has not yet returned, we can assume that the gravest threat is yet to come.

See also: Dog Eat Blog discusses Wenceslas;
prague-pictures.cz featured the statue on Wenceslas square;
Solnitchka pictures David Černý's inversion of the Wenceslas statue in the Lucerna building;
ABC Prague posts a list of Wenceslas-related events in Prague.

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On the Platform

27 September 2006

Brno - Královo pole
Originally uploaded by youplayawhat.
The next installment of Brno soundscapes, podcast for your enjoyment. This time I've taken a few sounds that you might hear on the platform at the train station. This, again, is more of a composition since I've edited it (there's only one spot where I went overboard though). All the sounds are from Brno train stations, though not all from the main station.

powered by ODEO

Czech Train
Originally uploaded by youplayawhat.
My favorites are the ticket stamper (at 1:29) and the "happy" marimba triad that plays before and after the "happy" announcements (at 2:00 and 2:55). ("Happy" announcements are about trains arriving or departing on time. Not heard in these segments are two other marimba parts. One is a "sad" marimba melody that introduces "sad" announcements about delayed trains—it's in a minor key. The other plays the theme that symbolizes the Vltava river in Smetana's tone poem Vltava (or Moldau in German) from Má vlast.)

I've tried Odeo this time since it offers an embedded player with happy colors. You should be able to click on the play button to hear the recording. Let me know how it works. I was a little bit more lax about the editing here than in the tram soundscape, but it's probably OK for internet broadcast.

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We Apologize

26 September 2006
I found this helpful message at a Web page where I was making some inquiries this morning:
Vážení návštěvníci internetových stránek Etnologického ústavu!

Vítáme Vás na nové webovské prezentaci našeho ústavu a zároveň se omlouváme, že ne všechny rubriky a informace jsou plně funkční a aktuální. Stránky jsou prozatím ve zkušebním provozu. Děkujeme za pochopení.

Dear visitors to the Web page of the Ethnology Institute!

Welcome to our Institute's new Web presentation. We apologize that not every sections is fully functional and not all information updated. For now, the pages are in testing. Thank you for understanding.

I can only wonder what the point of updating a Web site is if you're not really updating it . . .

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American (but not very american) Laundry

25 September 2006

American Laundry
Originally uploaded by youplayawhat.

The "American Laundry" also called "Under the Balloon," at Hybešova 45 in Brno, Czech Republic. I found the laundry in early September, but it was too late to use it. The place closed as of 1 August 2006. There were a few fun signs left on the windows, however.

Balloon Window
Originally uploaded by youplayawhat.

The window's balloons are a tribute to hot-air balloons, although that doesn't completely explain all the signs in the window. They also claim to have free internet and even wireless. There sure is a lot of advertising for coffee considering that this is supposed to be a bar (I don't think an American "bar" would offer many specialty coffee drinks).

But Not Very American
Originally uploaded by youplayawhat.

There is also a message board for those of us trying to learn Czech. I'm not sure, but this one seemed a bit of a tall order. No Boring Textbooks? Wonderfully clever? Chris, you forgot good looking and wealthy. I was tempted to affect a Czech accent and call the number (perhaps Chris is good looking and wealthy); unfortunately, I the textbooks I have are all dull, boring, and work intensive.

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Only in Central Europe?

16 September 2006
I read the following post—a letter to the tourist guide providers in the Austrian city of Graz—from Nerd's Eye View and I was thinking, "Only in central Europe." But then I realized it could happen anywhere. But somehow is it not all fallout from Austro-Hungary?

You decide:
I was in Graz with my family yesterday - both the American side and the Austrian side - when we met one of your guides. We were walking around the city when your guide confronted my brother in law, telling him that I was not allowed to discuss the sights unless I was a certified guide! . . .

Later that afternoon in another part of the city, she confronted him again, stating that if I wanted to take groups around the city, I could join the guide certification program. She did not believe that the group was, indeed, my family. She told my brother in law that it was "not allowed" to learn about the city privately and to then share that information with others. She told him that studying a guidebook and using it as a source for a tour of the city was also "not allowed."

Some of the comments are great too, if you care to read the original post.

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To Visit Brno

Being too lazy to write anything this morning, I want to draw your attention to a great introduction to Brno at the Four Bees blog. Four Bees always has great food and restaurant reviews from Budapest, and also Bratislava, Bruxelles, and is great for fun reads. (This review of a Budapest vegetarian option made my mouth water! I'm afraid I haven't yet found a good falafel place or salad bar here.)

I didn't know until recently, but Four Bees also has a soft spot for Brno! The recent Brno post will make you want to visit, too. While a great introduction for any visitor, the essay has some great insight into the urban character of Brno:
Brno is not the elusive 'next Prague'.

Along with 'shimmering sunsets' and 'bustling old town centres' this clichéd label hangs like a dead weight on many towns, some deserving, some dreading. . . .

Brno will never be the new Prague, and, knowing Brno, it doesn't want to be. Brno is very much its own town.

A vibrant yet traditional Czech city, this capital of Moravia has stunning architecture to match big Bohemian sister Prague, a gorgeous lake a tram ride away and, despite the name sounding a bit brown and dull, Brno has an exciting, beery bar scene, but without the heaving crowds.

Click to read more Brno: The City of Laughter and Forgetting.

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Crazy Cats

13 September 2006

For your loved ones
Originally uploaded by youplayawhat.
It wasn't all just looking at architecture and dance workshops in Zlín. There were also some funny advertisements, including this one for "Molly" cat food at Interspar.

It reads:
"For your little dears. So tasty, so lively, that your little dears will start to dance."

(Somehow I missed the feline hoola-hoops aisle.)

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It was already more than a week ago that I made a trip to Zlín, on the first weekend in September. My official visiting excuse was to help a friend find a new apartment (I was the official Czech speaker of the search).

The town is worth seeing, particularly if you're a fan of twentieth-century functionalist and utilitarian architecture. It turned out that my visit was on the weekend of the 13th annual Festival of Wind Orchestras and Folklore Ensembles (13. mezinárodní festival dechových orchestrů a folklorních souborů). There was so much to see, so many wonderful cafes to stop for coffee at, and everything seemed so fresh! Either I've been in Brno too long, or else it really is a great town. (Possibly a combination.)

I took a lot of photos and was satisfied with them, so this post should be more of a photo essay. I also got a few videos of the festival that I took with my camera. The town is famous for the factory buildings and workers' houses that the Baťa shoe company built, mostly in the 1920s. They stand out a lot from other Czech architecture because so much of the brick is left exposed (usually Czech houses are covered with stucco, regardless of the underlying material).

Originally uploaded by youplayawhat.

There were a lot of mirrors at intersections that provided interesting perspectives on the buildings.

Hotel Moskva
Originally uploaded by youplayawhat.

The Hotel Moskva is Zlín's premier international hotel, with all the glam and glitz of 1920s modernism, though it's usually hidden under a thick layer of 1980s chic.

Breakfast at Hotel Moskva
Originally uploaded by youplayawhat.

We found a covered breakfast buffet at Hotel Moskva, but the toppings were not very appetizing.

Baťa Skyscraper
Originally uploaded by youplayawhat.

The Baťa skyscraper is a showpiece of the town. It was built in only eight or so months in the late 1920s. "In speed there is strength" was one of Baťa's mottos. At the time it was the second highest skyscraper in Europe. Ah, the optimism of interwar Czechoslovakia.

Baťa House
Originally uploaded by youplayawhat.

Of course, no trip to Zlín would be complete without seeing one of the Baťa houses. There are a variety of designs, but most of them have a general cube shape. Even though they are basically mass produced, there is an incredible beauty and optimism to the neighborhoods of these houses. Radio Prague recently featured the Baťa houses in East Tilbury, England that were built around the same time.

On Saturday evening we saw the parade of bands that were participating in the festival. I was fascinated by the "majorette phenomena"—most bands in the parade were preceded by their corps of marching, dancing, baton twirling majorettes. The majorettes are always female, in their teens, and wear matching outfits. I suppose that they are the Czech equivalent of American cheerleaders. I have to say that I find the whole phenomena of young women dressing up and ascribing to this very particular and formulaic sense of beauty (and I include cheerleaders here) more than a little disturbing. Not all the musicians in the band were male, which means that at least some girls (many of the female instrumentalists were about the same age as the majorettes) do not go in for the majorette scene. (This begs the question, "Why ever not?" but I didn't ask any of them; of course, I would actually rather ask the majorettes themselves "Why?" but I didn't do that either.) Beauty contests, one parallel that comes to mind, have long been an institution for young Czech women of a certain age; for example, there is a Miss Brno (and, of course, Mistr Brno), and anyone who has seen Miloš Forman's film Hoří, má panenko (Fireman's Ball) knows what I'm talking about. But you can see for yourselves. (I haven't used the video function of my camera much, and considering that I think the videos turned out pretty well, though the resolution is low.)

There was also a dance workshop on Sunday morning taught by the group from Greece. We didn't really learn anything, but it was fun to watch the class through the trees.

The title of this post was respectfully inspired by Baťa-Ville, a documentary about visiting Zlín. More information about the film is at bata-ville.com.
Another recent Radio Prague story featured Zlín itself.

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It Keeps Going and Going

11 September 2006
It was a bit less than a year ago when I came to Brno for the long term. When I flew into Prague I remember thinking about how gorgeous it was in the fall—the crisp air, the Vltava, the trees on the verge of changing colors. Brno was also nice. Of course, it wasn't like I hadn't just left the country a month before, but it was the first time I saw Prague and the Czech Republic in the fall. (I recently had dinner with my Czech teacher, who now lives in the U.S. but is originally from Brno, and this year was the first time she has been here for the fall in thirty years. It's hard to imagine. After she and her family emigrated in 1976, though, they couldn't return to the Czech Republic until after 1989. Since then, she's only come in the summer.)

Another thing that I remember about Prague last fall is the advertisements for the exhibit of Jan Saudek photography. At that point they featured a nude woman from the back, and they were everywhere in the Prague metro. I was more surprised when I realized that the posters were not just in Prague, but all over the country! They never really went away, but about a month ago they started appearing again in force. This time, they had new pictures of butts and sported the logo "Exhibit Extended!"

I have to say that, after the posters had been up for about 9 months, I had assumed that the exhibit was permanent. Saudek is one of the most popular Czech photographers, I guess, and the exhibit is just off Old Town Square, which is a prime tourist destination. I thought the whole thing was there to stay. (But you know what happens when you assume.)

After a year-long run the exhibit is being prolonged. I can't say that I find the Saudek photos all that original—he does one thing well, and that is to show butts, which can be nice, but really, how much of that can a person take before they all start to look the same? (Well, he does excercise a bit more variety in his work, but his specialty is certainly the nude. The father of one family that a friend of mine stayed with described Saudek's work as basically soft porn.)

Now I guess there's no rush to see it since the big exhibit has been extended (for an unspecified length of time). The general scale of the advertising campaign is somewhat remarkable (why does one photographer get a year-long, country-wide campaign while everyone else is left in relative obscurity?). At least they chose a new photo this time that I found more interesting than the other ones: the baby butt. If I were arriving in Brno this fall, that's what would greet me from every other bus stop.

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Lazy Mouths and Other Sayings

10 September 2006
I recently learned a new Czech saying: Líná huba holé neštěstí. It means, basically, "a lazy mouth is a sure misfortune."

My Czech-English dictionary offers "you get nothing if you don't ask" as an equivalent for the saying's meaning. This equivalent, though, is not quite satisfactory since it changes the metaphor and is also far too agentive. The mouth, a likely requirement for asking a question, is totally left out, and there is far too clear a reference to a specific action (asking a question) and to an actor (you, the asker). The Czech version has no verb, which means that no one is actually doing anything, it is just an observation. Even when clearly directed toward someone, the Czech saying does not imply that the person is lazy, only their mouth. Presumably someone is there and the things are happening, but you get the idea that they are not necessarily responsible for the things that are happening. Slavic languages seem to have a lot of these "non-agentive" formations.

This saying's "unCzechness" is also surprising. If you walk around Brno, or just about anywhere else in the Czech Republic, you'll sooner or later realize that people keep to themselves in public. Czechs are some of the quietest people in public that I've ever met. Sometimes this is carried to a fault. For example, the reigning silence on public transportation is so thick that it can be unnerving at times. Even something as simple as saying "Excuse me" when you are exiting the tram is often dismissed in favor of sliding behind or around the person; this usually results in pushing or shoving but is apparently regarded by many people as preferable to opening their mouth. It is most important to blend in—while the squeaky wheel may get the grease, Czechs would rather not be the squeaky wheel. Perhaps such wheels are annoying, or perhaps that saying would imply that they're making something else operate (god forbid that you might be a contributing member of society), which is against the Czech traditions of individualism and inadequacy.* If you were raised here by Czech parents, this ability to blend in, at least in public situations, would have been deeply socialized and ingrained. As one Czech writer and humorist put it, "This is done by persistent coaching from parents and teachers, which entails frequent repetition of a simple command: 'Don't you dare make an asshole of yourself or your family (group, club, town, nation, etc.)'."** So, whether they have lazy mouths or not, an initial Czech response in public situations is to keep one's mouth shut rather than to open it.

At various times I can be an incredible procrastinator, but I usually get over it in the long run. Part of my work is to interview people about music and, as you can certainly imagine, it's not very easy to do if your mouth is lazy. But perhaps my mouth will be more active in the future. I hope this saying works well as a new mantra because it could really help.

*Benjamin Kuras, Czechs and Balances (Prague: Baronet, 1996), pp. 18-20, discusses the Czech "Wisdom of Inadequacy," which is generally a good thing, but shouldn't be taken to extremes.
**Ibid., p. 20. The saying in my family, though not coming through any Czech heritage, was that it is better to keep one's mouth shut and have people believe you a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. The obvious way around all these impediments is, of course, to start a blog.

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09 September 2006

Originally uploaded by merkwurdigliebe.
Here is a picture of an old map of one tram end station (it's the black loop in the picture) where I recorded the 9 and 11 in the tram podcast.

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No, really

I just discovered that my blog comes up pretty close to the top of the list when you search the phrase "I wanted to write about music" at google.

I'm not sure that's a good thing or not. As a topic, it's not something I remember addressing directly, and I'm afraid it might mean that there was a bit too much musicology pedantry coming out. (Oy!) But, just so you're not disappointed:

Have you ever thought about good orchestral sunrise music? On this fall morning, blue bright and cloudless in Brno, the best sunrise music would have been the Entry of the Gods into Valhalla from Richard Wagner's Das Rheingold, the first opera of the "Ring" cycle. It's bombastic, loud, and over the top pompous, as you might expect from triumphal Wagner, but there is a bittersweet twist. (And if you want really pompous and bombastic, you can always listen to the Ride of the Valkyries from the next opera in the cycle.) The Entry music comes at the end of the first opera in the cycle; this opera is really more of an introduction (kind of like the role of The Hobbit in the Lord of the Rings series), albeit it a long one. This introductory opera is really about the moment when the gods—they are pretty much taken from Norse mythology (think large women with horns on their helmets, kind of the opera version of that cartoon Hagar the Horrible)—decide that they will leave earth for Valhalla. Their entry into Valhalla (or, as some translations have it, "float-up") ushers in the age of humans on earth. So, while this is triumphant, royal, godly, masculine music, it is not a signal of their ultimate power but rather their spent power. It's music that begins the passing of an Age.

The reason it's such great sunrise music is that, well, you might hear it as a sunrise. It opens with the shimmering, smooth, and flowing music that Wagner used to symbolize the Rhine river and its treasure, the magical gold that was hidden at the bottom of the river. So you get an impression of sparkling majesty that is calm, but still quickly moving. Kind of like those moments before you get the first direct rays of sun. The music slowly grows louder, brightening, and there are distant fanfares—the light grows brighter, the shadows become shallower, everything becomes clearer and more defined. There is a wonderful moment where two clarinets harmonize the river music in thirds and sixths with a harp accompaniment—a very pastoral moment interrupted by the double reeds (the killjoys). But that's what a sunrise is like; sometimes the daylight is a bit harsh when you're used to calmer night time. The ending is begun by the horns' entrance with an insistent, repeated fanfare in dotted rhythms. That's when the first direct rays of sunlight hit and you start getting that special intense light that's neither full day nor twilight. The music grows louder, and finally the dotted rhythm stops just as the music gets to its loudest point. The fanfares are kind of left hanging there above the sparkling string textures (you might say that it's the impression of a musical bridge). There is a great timpani moment here, where the drums drive the music into the suspended "bridge" moment and prepare the ending section. In the final section of the music, the sparkle and fanfares continue while the lower instruments join in with the Rhine theme. You get the impression of upward motion, as the gods are exiting over the river toward the light of the sun reflecting on the walls of Valhalla in the distance. This is supposed to be a sunset, but the order suggests a sunrise to me. Regardless, the bittersweet part is that this music is an ending of something at the same time it's a beginning; it's threshold music—nothing will be the same after it, whether it's a new day, a new night, or a new Age.

Some might say that they don't want to wake up to Wagner for ideological or aesthetic reasons; while those are valid complaints, it implies that you slept the night before. Plus, the next best alternative is Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra, which has the same problems. There is a sunrise in Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite, plus probably a half-million others. The ambiguity of the Wagner, though, captures something more profound about the sunrise—that knowledge that it's not just a beginning but also an ending.

Read the Tommasini review of the new "American" Ring here.

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Tram Ride

07 September 2006

Trams at Čertova rokle
Originally uploaded by youplayawhat.
It's finally happened! I recorded sounds on the Brno trams and have prepared a special tram ride podcast. I haven't yet figured out a satisfactory way to embed it here, so you have to link over to it at podomatic. When you get there, hit the green play button at left.

It is intended as a soundscape composition. If you've ever ridden central European trams, then you may know what a rich sound environment they can be. In fact, riders get a lot of cues aurally rather than visually. People don't look around much while riding the tram, and you can't usually see what's up ahead to prepare; instead, you have to listen to the announcements for stops, listen to the wheels and travel sounds to tell whether you will speed up or slow down, and, in the case of unwary pedestrians, there are wonderful warning bells.

Inside the Tram
Originally uploaded by youplayawhat.
As the Czechs might say, this soundscape has a certain dramaturgie, in this case, a sort of narrative. First, you hear the trams arriving and departing at a tram stop, warning bells ringing, while you wait for for the right tram; your tram eventually arrives, you climb aboard and validate your ticket (the rude "bzzzz"); then you ride the tram, hear announcements, and get the sense of the general noise; finally, you get off and listen to the tram leaving and the tracks singing. In all, it takes about only four minutes.

As a soundscape composition, I've attempted a more naturalistic approach that aims to hide the editing and my role in the process. Those who care to know and listen carefully will notice that this is a montage and not a single recording. If you're really a stickler, you may also notice that there are about four trams involved in the recording, including the numbers 4, 9, and 11 on tracks in the northern part of Brno. You might then consider it an aural "illusion," but the intent is to focus in on a few of the sound signals that are most important in marking a Brno tram rider's journey.

Ah, the wonders of Odeo. It seems that this may be a solution to embedding the file. I've added the mp3 to odeo, and you should be able to listen to it by clicking on the nifty player below.

powered by ODEO

More trams at NvB:
Tram Culture 101
Tram Number 4
Excuse Me, What Are You Driving?
Quietest Tram in the East
Strange Vehicle
Brno in Motion
Waiting for the Tram, Functionally Speaking
For more urban transportation soundscapes, check out tram-n-bus.

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The Fall's Fallen

06 September 2006
I guess it's that time of year. Or something. I've been looking at my links list at the right, and it seems that it's not completely living up to its claim—that is, not that any of the blogs there are uninteresting, but some of them are dead. So, in the interests of those who like to do autopsies on dead blogs, I'm listing them here so that they don't disappear for good. After all, they did a lot of great stuff.

Čest jejích památce / To the honor of their memory

*Gazing into the Abyss - We're never too far from the edge.
*Jeremy in Armenia Jeremy is a fellow Michigan grad student, so presumably he's returned to Ann Arbor and the good academic life.
*Living in SK has continued Living in SF
*Moskovie Melochi, aka Moscow minutiae, has returned stateside to do some Procrastinating in Pittsburgh.
*Prague Blog had enough beer, moved to Japan, and started a new brog.
*Somewhere in Bohemia has moved to somewhere else, this time with a nice and sunny climate.
*J'habite à Paris is now habitating and rousting about in Ypsilanti (Michigan).

I'll miss you all. Though it will never be the same, I have added a few new links that still promise to bore you less. Enjoy!

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Meanwhile, Back in the New Country

Happy Westfest 2006. I guess we missed it in Brno. West, Texas, is one of the great remaining bastions of Czech-Americans in the United States. Every summer they have a festival to celebrate their Czech heritage by dancing the polka, baking kolaches, and having a good time. I've done a fair amount of research on such festivals, and they are something that everyone American interested in Czech studies should know about and experience. If you follow any European-American ethnic community or are familiar with small towns of the Midwest, then you probably also have an idea what these things are like.

A wonderful set of photos from Westfest 2006 by Rod Aydelotte was posted at the Waco Tribune. A few details will immediately tell you it's not the Czech Republic: Most tellingly, the last picture is a lemonade stand (real Czechs wouldn't be caught dead without a cold beer, kielbasa, and a shot of slivovice on a festival day); there are also too many babies (none in prams) and big trucks; and, there is a large boy scout troupe in front of a wall of heroes (you see war monuments in the Czech Republic, and most Czechs don't seem into hero worship unless there is a direct family connection or you're talking about Havel, Masaryk, or an artist or author).

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Dear Dr. Prof. CsC., sir or madam:

05 September 2006
If you've spent a bit of time in academia, then you know that titles can be a big issue. They can be a bit helpful since they can indicate boundaries and let you know when or when not to "overstep your bounds." My experience in the humanities in the U.S. is that a good portion of professors, most of whom have doctorates, don't mind being on a first-name basis with their graduate students. It's often a different situation with undergraduate students. In any case, it's generally not an entirely strict or inflexible social hierarchy.

European academia is very attached to its titles. You have to know your relation to the people you're talking to—what their education is, what their authority in the hierarchy is, what they did to get their degree, etc. It's nice to know how things stand, but it often seems a bit stodgy. For example, here is the list of acceptable prefixed titles for students, staff, and faculty at a big Czech university:
Ing. arch. MUDr. MDDr. MVDr. PhMr. MrPh. JUDr. RNDr. RSDr. PhDr. PaedDr. PharmDr. DrPh. ThDr. ThLic. ThMgr. ThB. MgA. ak. arch. mal. soch. Mgr. Bc. BcA. prof. doc. dipl. tech. h.c. et Dr. Th.D. Mgr.A. Dr. phil.

Those are the only official choices, and I suspect you're supposed to know what they mean. But that's not all! There are also postfixed titles:
DrSc. CSc. Dr. DiS. M.A. Ph.D. M.Sc. B.A. MBA M.Litt. M.Phil. DMS

I guess that I should be happy since I do have one of the above degrees, but I have to say that I'm a bit disgruntled that it seems there is no possibility of listing my music degrees in any official format (or perhaps I just don't know the abbreviations). Not that I'm very concerned about it, since a degree that says a person can make music is kind of a strange concept in the first place.

Looking over those lists this AM, I recalled the Laurel and Hardy short The Music Box. The duo plays a pair of piano movers who are hired to bring a player piano a house situated at the top of a very long and steep flight of steps. While attempting to carry the piano up the steps, they are continually interrupted by people who want to use the steps and either ask or demand that the movers get off the steps. One of the demanders is a sort of European doctor-professor-gentleman who spouts a long stream of titles that, in his not-so-humble opinion, entitle him right-of-way. He requires that the piano movers get out of his way since walking around on the grass would not suit a man of his importance. It's a classic moment in one of L&H's best shorts. If you know the short, then you know that it's a funny reminder that, no matter how many titles you've got and whether you know their bounds or not, you don't really want to be left "bounding over your steps."

Pictures from laurel and hardy dot com.

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Little Footsteps

I woke up to the sound of footsteps on my roof this morning. They weren't actually little ones, but big thumping clomping stomps. I hope it's nothing serious. We've had high winds a few days in the past week and it seems that something may have blown loose.