The Final Countdown

Exactly one week from my writing of this, I should be somewhere in the air over the Atlantic Ocean.  We’re entering our final week of Prague, which will hopefully be at least as busy as the last week has been.

We’ve been busy with both classwork and excursions to places around the city.  This week of class has been fairly typical, with the exception of the fact that we’ve started reading screenplays in class.  Fortunately, as one of the students in the Advanced section of Screenwriting, my script is getting read on the last day of class, giving me plenty of time to scramble and make last minute edits so I don’t want to disappear into my chair while classmates are reading it.

Actually, that puts both of my classes in a similar place right now–both are filled with a scrambled, last minute writing.  For Screenwriting it is, obviously, my screenplay (although at this point it’s less writing and more ‘editing my hastily cobbled-together dialogue so people don’t sound like robots).  For Film History, it’s a five page essay on modernity in the Kurasawa film “High and Low”, which is an interesting enough topic.

Outside of class, we’ve been very busy.  On Wednesday we took an excursion to yet another historic theater (Prague has a lot of those) and got to watch a classic American comedy called “Hail the Conquering Hero,” which was actually one of the funniest movies that I’ve seen in a very long time.  It made me think a lot about how the standards for comedy have changed–we seem to be a lot more reliant on wise-guy schticks and actors’ force of personality rather than actually good writing and storytelling.  I’d definitely recommend the movie to anyone who is able to find a copy.

This past weekend, some friends and I went to both the Ossuary about an hour from Prague and took advantage of Prague’s Museum Night, in which something like 50 museums opened their doors free of admission from 7 to 1am.  The Ossuary, for those who haven’t heard of it, is a church that for some inexplicable reason has been decorated with bones.  Literally thousands of them.  As in, it is estimated that the remains of 40,000 people are in the Ossuary.  For frame of reference, that is approximately the entire student body of NCSU.  In skeletal form.

Honestly, I felt weird going to the Ossuary.  Paying to enter a church was odd enough, but then seeing those bones everywhere, and tourists gawking at them…there was something simultaneously reverent yet disrespectful about the place.  You could not deny that extreme care had gone into displaying the bones artistically (from a strictly aesthetic sense, the place was amazing), and that there was a way to interpret it as defying Death’s sting in the face of faith and God…but when I’m looking at literally hundreds of human skulls, some of which have coins in them that people have tossed, it was hard to feel that it was respectful of those people’s lives.  I don’t know.  It was a strange experience, and definitely something to see, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit uncomfortable.  I guess that’s a natural enough reaction, though.

The museum night was also interesting, though also unsettling (for much more entertaining reasons).  The first museum we went to was called Futura, and may have been chosen entirely for the fact that it offered barbecue.  Going inside, we learned that it was the home of a large collection of modern art.  Most of this art was nice, but the building itself was almost as interesting–there were stairways that led nowhere, and walls with parts taken out and rotated, and generally lots of creepy hallways and unexpected twists.  I still have no idea if this was intentional for the museum, or simply a byproduct of old Prague architecture.  Some highlights of the actual art included a creepy mural over a raised platform–the platform had a hole in it with about a dozen long, thick pieces of black human hair trailing out from it for several feet.  It looked like the girl from the Grudge was in there or something–I didn’t get close enough to find out.  There were also two statues outside.  They were about thirty feet tall, and shaped like people bent over 90% at the waist, but above the waist the torso tapers down to a formless blob.  However, the lower half of the statue was completely correct, with well shaped legs leading up to an accurately sculpted butt–complete with a hole.  There were ladders leading up the statues legs, which you could climb.  You then could stick your head in the hole to see a video that featured two people wearing strange old-person masks feeding each porridge in a strangely sexual way, all while Queen’s “We Are The Champions” played in the background.  It was, without a doubt, the strangest art I have ever seen.  There is also now a picture of me with my head apparently inside a statue’s butt on Facebook, so I guess I have the artist to thank for that.  Never let it be said that I am afraid to sample other cultures (though all the Czech natives I saw at the museum seemed equally amused/terrified by the exhibit, so I’m not even sure where to lay the blame/credit for this).

The other museum we had time to go to (there were enormous lines) was a museum of African, American, and Asian Culture.  It was a much more typical museum, though it does have the distinction of going into more detail with African history pre-colonialism than any other source I have seen.  It makes me realize how little African history is actually covered in most American educational systems–something that should definitely be corrected.

This coming week I intend to finish up all of my work and leave myself free to enjoy the last few attractions I’ll get to see in Prague.  This includes some souvenir shopping, as well as perhaps a zoo trip and climb up a cell phone tower that has creepy baby statues crawling up the side.  I also know that there is going to be an Institute party on the last Thursday, so I’m sure the week will be eventful.  In the meantime, I shall do my best to learn what actually happens in the World Cup so I can keep up with what’s going on in the bars.

I hope to post at least one more time before going home, and then to have a wrap-up post in the US.  I’ll keep you all posted!