17 October 2008

TV and supermarkets

Two of my favorite meters for monitoring the flavor of whatever country I'm visiting are television and grocery stores. They both have global elements, but a lot of local flavor (as the saying goes, 'what's global is local and what's local is global') is involved, and they show priorities. For example, a Velvet Underground documentary subtitled in Català can be seen as an interesting statement for both Catalunya and Spain, what the media presents, and what types of culture people are interested in. Also today I spent a significant amount of time in Tesco (a British chain) and I love watching people shop for food. It also takes me a long time to grocery shop anyway because I don't know where stuff is. I'm slowly learning the supermarket closest to me, but it's all a process -- they're all like as big or bigger than Giant Eagle or Shoprite and it can be really overwhelming.

This evening, I put on the TV, and there was a rather fascinating thing on STV2 (called 'dvojka') -- a 20-minute, blast-from-the-past, back to the future newsreel show called Československý filmový týždenník (you can watch online). It turns out, this year they're replaying the news from 1968 every week. A fascinating way to honor the memory and courage of so many -- although at this point in the year, the country was already occupied by the Warsaw Pact. In the episode I saw, there was this excellent show of products from (capitalist) countries, with a focus on Fiat cars and motorcycles -- they made huge amounts of money during the Cold War by building factories in the USSR and their Italian workers were mostly highly sympathetic to the cause anyway. Then there was a motorcycle rally type race on mud paths in the mountains, which looked really fun but also supremely dangerous, proletarian-on-the-street interviews, and a oh-so-1968 ČSSR version of Nancy Sinatra + Patty Pravo -- that powerful yet somewhat mournful female late-sixties pop singer type of style.

Then there was a newsmagazine-type show on, and the big news of the day is that now Slovaks can go to the US as tourists (up to 90 days) without a visa. People have been talking about this for months and it's a really big deal. During the segment, there were clips of Forbes Avenue in Oakland, which was kind of strange to see but I recognized it immediately of course -- and of course, President Gasparovič was in Pittsburgh last week, so no surprise our fair city was part of the stock reel. The US ambassador to Slovakia was on the show talking about the no visa thing, but it was mostly boringly information, not really any policy statements. Another segment was about the types of food Slovaks buy and who eats the least healthily -- Bratislava and Košice regions have the worst diets. The top three products people buy are apples, chicken and potatoes -- not very suprising but definitely not a bad thing either. Finally, the Rusyns made it onto the news, although in a Fark-ish non-news sort of way: apparently residents of Ulič live very close to the Ukrainian border and people could theoretically walk back and forth between the countries even though there's no actual road connecting them, just a path. The two countries want to build a road I think, but of course it's kind of an issue because Ukraine isn't Schengen.

Also, I'd kill for a fresh salad right now, preferably containing romaine lettuce, but really any kind of fresh (raw) greens and vegetables. I'm really starting to love cabbage, but it's not the same. I'm in a salad kind of mood, but I can't act on it.

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