In this edition of Magazine: the new president ‘flips the bird’; some voters opt for cartoon character the Little Mole; Václav Klaus falls for a prank call; and Katka forgets the pickle.
Emotions may have largely died down since the Czech presidential election last weekend which ended with victory for former Social Democrat leader Miloš Zeman, but not all fully agree with results or have gotten over the fact the other candidate, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg lost. While some disgruntled voters continued to wear Sex Pistol-inspired pins (depicting the older Mr Schwarzenberg with a pink mohawk), others took a more creative approach.
For example, graphic artist Zdenek Netopil – a designer of more than 20 postage stamps for the Czech postal service, opted to satirise the president-elect in a new stamp, showing Mr Zeman ‘flipping the bird’, an apparent reference to Mr Zeman’s sometimes abrasive approach in public (he recently joked that a day without insulting at least someone would not be complete).
The artist sent the stamp, which he gave the value of 54.8 crowns (which is the percentage of voters who elected Mr Zeman) to friends and did not intend for it to be broadly seen. They, however, posted it on facebook. Hm... a couple people may have noticed it there. Czech Post will of course be looking for someone to create a real stamp portraying the president, a tradition here since the days of T.G. Masaryk. It’s fairly safe to say that Mr Netopil will not be submitting a proposal this time.
Continuing with the election, some voters apparently where not happy with either choice for president in the second round and decided to vote for someone else entirely: placing fake ballots or even candy into official envelopes. Homemade ballots, for example, indicated a preference for the much-loved cartoon character Little Mole (Krtek) or the fictional theatre character Jára Cimrman. What, no Švejk?!! Such steps show that the tradition of ‘recese’ or mischievous practical jokes is alive and well in the Czech lands; this is, after all, the place where some 15,000 inhabitants identified themselves as ‘Jedi knights’ in the most recent census.
Speaking of practical jokes and presidents, the outgoing Czech head-of-state Václav Klaus was most displeased recently when he received a phone call from his Slovak counterpart Ivan Gasparovic who wondered if Mr Klaus was still seeking to emigrate. The question was in reference to a private text message Mr Klaus sent ahead of the election joking that he would leave the Czech Republic if a certain candidate won.
The man on the line from Slovakia of course was not really the Slovak president but radio host Andrej Wallner who cheekily called the president’s office and was surprised to be patched through almost immediately. Mr Klaus soon realised he was being mocked and told the radio host he should be ashamed of himself before hanging up. Mr Wallner has since expressed regret over the joke, saying he thought the president would react differently. He also regrets the taped phone call, which was not even broadcast in the end, was leaked from Radio Expres.
One last word about the presidential election: regardless of whether you favoured either candidate, pity Karel Schwarzenberg. The candidate was one of the first to vote in the second round but apparently somebody forgot to tell him how to do it right. The candidate cast an invalid vote by forgetting to put the ballot into the official envelope. Yep, that’ll do it. The candidate later explained he had been distracted by all the flashing cameras. It’s true there was a crowd of photojournalists snapping eagerly away. Not one of them thought to step in to spoil the moment and allowed the ballot to be spoiled instead.
A recruiting video for the fast-food chain McDonald’s showing ‘Katka’ – a young woman on her first day on the job – has gone viral on the internet, leading to many parodies and various remixes. A key moment in the official video is when the newest employee forgets procedure and leaves the pickle out of a cheeseburger. That moment – as well as when Katka finds out she’ll have to accept a schedule she’s been given – spawned a number of funny imitations but also some that the actress herself found insulting.
Although she wanted to avoid media attention originally, the actress who plays ‘Katka’ said that videos referencing Nazism were far over the line. The pickle incident has already been applied to the Hitler bunker scene from Downfall (a long-running meme on the internet where Bruno Ganz’s Hitler routinely rails against everything from not being able to get Billy Elliot tickets to Michael Jackson’s death). ‘Katka’ is not the only one less thrilled by some of the pickle parodies – McDonald’s, reportedly, is not too happy about developments either.
In other weird news, it recently took three seasoned fire fighters in the east of the country all their strength and expertise to wrestle a four-metre long python that was warming itself on the water pipes in a bathroom. The fire fighters were called on an early Saturday morning by a local snake breeder who had forgotten to close his terrarium: a total of four snakes made it to short-lived freedom but the one in the bathroom came closer than the other specimens to escaping through the pipes. There was a danger the snake might slither into one of the neighbouring apartments in the 11-floor apartment block. Now that would be a surprise! Imagine heading to the bathroom early in the morning to find it already occupied.
Ever heard the saying every man needs a shed? Well, how about one made out of gingerbread? That is roughly the size of the country’s largest gingerbread house made by teachers and students at a Czech elementary school. The gingerbread house took a month to plan and had to very precisely-designed. Five and half thousand eggs, three hundred kilograms of flour and 43 kilograms of butter went into the bricks and beams and mortar. The idea was the brainchild of physics teacher Luboš Valenta, who has been making normal-sized gingerbread houses for years, but always wanted to build something like this.
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