02-03-2001

"Schweiking it easy" Czechs poke fun of the national census. Thinking of getting your pet cloned some day? Call the new DNA bank in Brno. Flirting over the Internet is fun, but it doesn't always pay to check your partner out. And what do Czech women think of Czech men? Those are some of the interesting stories in this week's magazines.

 

Have you got it? Have you filled it in? How much of it are you filling in? Those are questions that you can hear people discussing everywhere these days and the issue is, of course, the national census. Not surprisingly, the cover of Tyden magazine shows a bureaucrat counting sheep. Czechs don't trust bureaucrats and the Czech Statistical Office has just made public the outcome of a last minute opinion poll, according to which only 58% of Czechs intend to fill in the forms truthfully. Whether or not this is bluster remains to be seen. What is true is that Czechs have never had much respect for civil servants, and they have perfected ways of getting around red tape as often as possible. And even as the employees of the Czech Statistical Office do their best to persuade the public to fill in the census truthfully, its opponents point out that while you can get fined for refusing to fill the form in , the state has no way of catching you out if you choose to lie. In other words take it easy, or "Schwejk it easy" to quote the author of a musical that is expected to be the hit of the season in the Berlin Thertre des Westens. Jaroslav Hasek's famous soldier Schwejk, who outsmarted all bureaucrats, is being turned into a musical - with a few slight changes. Hasek's story from the beginning of the 20th century has been moved to the not-too-distant future , the year 2015. Schwejk, the central figure remains a symbol of opposition to authority and red tape. The action takes place in a psychiatric asylum where, among other things, Schweik meets with Franz Kafka. "Schweik it easy" is to premiere this spring. In the meantime, Czechs are already Schweiking it easy, as a hilarious mock version of the national census has been making the rounds. Among other things you are asked to fill in the colour of your mother's hair the day you were born, give the exact dates of your first, second and third attempts at sexual intercourse, and say how many of your relatives are currently doing time in jail in Cuba. There's just no way around it -the Czechs will never take bureaucrats seriously.

 

It is not so long ago that scientists made public the fact that they'd managed to decipher the human gene. While commentators argue about the pros and cons of this mind-boggling discovery, others are thinking business. Consequently the city of Brno is now home to the first private DNA Bank in the Czech Republic. The bank is there to serve anyone interested in getting their pet cloned at some future date. Its employees will take a DNA sample to be frozen at around minus 70 degs C for an indefinite length of time at the cost of 5,000 Czech Crowns. The price is slightly higher if you wish the sample to be taken in your home, and an emergency call for a sample to be taken from a dying pet costs a little over 9,000 crowns. The blue eyed pit-bull on the bank's ads has been nicknamed "The Immortal Dog". Apart from the dogs, cats, parrots, turtles and horses section - or whatever else it is that people will ask to have immortalized, the bank likewise plans to conserve the genes of endangered animal species. In spite of this last statement, Tyden claims that the bank, which was set up at the initiative of Igor Vicha, an eye doctor and a team of his colleagues, is still more of a business venture than a scientific project. None of the leading genetics specialists in the Czech Republic knew anything about it in advance. The fact that very little information is being released even now -allegedly for security reasons- is making it difficult to judge the quality of services rendered. What the public has been told is that there is an office for paperwork, a test laboratory and well-guarded storage facilities. Similar laboratories operate in the United States, but as genetics specialist professor Petr Horin told Tyden, things are not as simple as they are being made out. Only a few experimental laboratories around the world are capable of successfully cloning animals, so you may be in for a very long wait -not to mention the fact that the DNA sample cost is a fraction of the actual cloning expenses. Asked by Tyden magazine whether the bank would consider deep-freezing a human DNA sample, Mr. Vicha admitted that it would indeed be possible and the bank was not ruling it out. "We are aware of how sensitive this problem is and that is the main reason for the secrecy surrounding the bank" he says. It will not be long before ways of safeguarding our own genetics code will become an issue of top priority - Tyden notes. This is information that our employers, banks and possibly even our future spouses will be eager to acquire. And it is highly disturbing to realize that a human DNA sample is something your dentist can take without raising your suspicion. Maybe that, though, will make it easier for us to fill in a simple census form today, the weekly adds.

 

OK, so right now we don't have each others genetics code to help us find the partner of our dreams, but, according to Lidove Noviny Magazine, it can be more fun not to know everything. Thousands of Czechs have reportedly taken to flirting over the Internet, where, hidden behind a silly nickname and false identity, they can be anyone they want to be. In the early 1990s, chatting was strictly a students' domain, now 30, 40 and 50 year olds are joining the game, having a bit of fun during their coffee break or even work hours. The magazine's editor, who went on line for some "on the job" flirting, found herself exchanging intimacies with a married guy with two children, who gave her his phone number but asked her not to call him at home in the evening. Although many people are in it for the fun, some actually agree to meet. Often the sand-castle crumbles, the weekly says, that delightful bubbly twenty-year-old turns out to be 40 and seriously overweight, the girl you were crazy about is a homosexual, or your Bruce Willis look-alike arrives with a bald head and a beer belly. Never mind, there are lots of others out there - and maybe next time you'll leave well enough alone and just enjoy that coffee break. On the other hand, you might give this guy a chance - at least until you see his genetics code...

 

And finally, what do Czech women think of Czech men? Yes, I realize how unfair this is, but I swear I don't have the opposite survey. For some reason, Lidove Noviny Magazine only conducted this "one-way" research. And here's what they came up with: the qualities that Czech women most value in their male counterparts are - a sense of humor that brightens their days and helps them survive hard times, and the fact that they are good at jobs around the house. Even doctors and professors who have spent the day operating or lecturing have no trouble fixing anything that needs to be fixed around the house - and most seem to enjoy it. On the other hand, the ladies say that their male counterparts are a lot less gallant that Russian or Italian men, for instance, and that the middle and older generation especially leave the responsibility for the household, various chores and parental duties entirely on their wives' shoulders. What does that make Czech women? According to the survey, women see themselves as being down to earth, pragmatic and responsible. Most of them would like to be more pampered.

02-03-2001