Friday, February 23, 2007

The Czech Dream

Last night, a few friends and I went to see a Czech movie called the Czech Dream. I didn't really know what it was about before it started, only details I was provided was that it was a documentary about advertising in the Czech Republic. My thoughts were "ooh goody, an independent film."

So here is the background to the movie that is being called the largest consumer hoax the Czech Republic has ever seen. Two film students used a government grant for their final project and developed a big scam about a fake hypermarket that was opening in Prague. Basically they set out to explore the psychological and manipulative powers of advertising by creating an ad campaign for a store that doesn't exist. The film follows them as they develop the idea from just a thought, to the advertising campaign, full with print, radio, and TV commercials all well researched and constructed. They print and hand out fliers with fake store brand products, and even record a catchy jingle. Finally they construct the front facade of the store with a huge banner out in the field by Prague airport that will be the stage for the final reveal.

In the end, thousands of people catch on to the massive amount of advertising and show up for the store opening, that was never going to happen. It was hilarious because they keep it going up until the last minute when the shoppers storm out towards the fictitious store out in the field only to find that its all a big scam. Naturally many are pissed off, while others find the humor in it and recognize the idea behind their motives to do this. I felt bad for the elderly making their way out with their trolleys in hand.

Consumerism in the Czech Republic as it turns out is quite the phenomenon. Communism definitely contributed to this where before consumers were very limited with both quantity and quality. Now even I'm overwhelmed sometimes at the number of different brands that are available for any given product, in particular I noticed this with the yogurt aisle or I should say aisles. Many people interviewed in the movie talk about how much they love going for an afternoon shopping trip to Tesco and what a relaxing experience it is. My trips to Tesco have been about as far away from relaxing as it gets but I guess that's because I come from a different background and I'm highly impatient. Generally I avoided the Walmart's back home largely due to the massive amount of people all trying to save a couple pennies and contributing to the cult of "everyday low prices." Well it appears that Tesco is attempting the Walmart effect across Central Europe. That's my rant...

Another issue that the movie brings up, which I was unaware of, was the Czech Republics campaign to enter the European Union. Apparently this same type of ad campaign was used where Say Yes to EU was the only message offered to the public. I guess it worked and goes to show just how easily we are influenced by advertising. Overall, I thought that this was a really eye opening movie, especially for me. If you're interested, here is the link to the Czech Dream.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Last Month

I realize that this is long overdue but I will do my best to try and recall some of the more memorable events of the past month.

Leaving Zilina

I completed my internship at the end of January with Snow Paradise. While I didn't have the professional experience that I was hoping for, at the end of it I felt like I did accomplish something. More importantly though, living in Zilina for four months taught me more about myself than any other time in my life. Being on my own, in a different country, with a different language put a lot of things into perspective for me and that is what I will take with me from this experience. I survived through a lot of lonely days and times when I questioned why am I doing this to myself. The entire effect of it though will probably not reveal itself for a while to come. I am however already starting to notice changes in myself, most importantly how much more independant and braver I have become as a result.

And to the friends that I made in Slovakia, Dekujem (Thank you) for all of your help while I was there. I couldn't have done it without your support. Oh and a shout out to mother nature who screwed with my opportunity to become a professional skier. Yeah the snow came, the LAST week that I was there ironically so no skiing for me.

Moving to Prague

Moving to Prague was the natural progression for my life right now. I love this city, Alex was already here working, there are lots of opportunities and well I'm not ready to go back to Calgary just yet. So I packed my now even heavier bags and moved here.

Searching for an apartment I realized is not a fun thing to do in any city in the world. As an aside I'd like to mention that searching for a furnished apartment is even more difficult. I must have viewed about 20 different flats on my own and by the end of it my head was starting to spin. And someone needs to put these apartment owners in their place. Charging a ridiculous amount of money for a box, with old communist furniture, is not justifyable by my standards. We lucked out in the end and found a beautiful flat, very close to the city center of Prague. I finally have a kitchen I can cook in and we've already come up with some great meals. Being a 10 minute walk from the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square also has its perks when going out.

The roomates include Alex, and a Brazilian couple, Alice and Andre who are also part of AIESEC and working here in Prague. We had a housewarming party last weekend that was a lot of fun but we quickly learned that our neighbors are not the party type. Shame really because we were out of here by 11pm on a Saturday night. Nothing too wild and crazy by any standards.

Other than that, I have been hanging out, exploring the new area and trying new things. Alex and I went to the Opera at the National Theatre here a couple of weeks ago. The opera itself was really stupid and had a bad story line but being in this beautiful building around all these people dolled up for the theatre was really interesting for me. I'm hoping to go and catch the ballet soon, Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet are playing.

Its still an adjustment moving to a new city. So far I'm quite impressed with my navigation skills and my new found ability to use a map!! I even anaged to find a Toshiba service center out in the boonies of Prague. Funny how outside the touristy area here, Prague is just like other cities with its suburban areas and run down buildings. The weather has been wierd as is the case for this whole winter. No snow other than a small dropping that quickly melted when I came here, and just this overcast kind of gloomy weather, followed by really nice and sunny days that remind me of spring in Calgary. Mind you spring in Calgary doesn't occur until May...

So there is the basic update. I'll try to keep it more regular from now on. Oh and if any of you are coming to Prague, send me an email!

Friday, February 16, 2007

I've Moved

Quick update; I decided it was time for a change of scenery and I have moved to Prague a couple of weeks ago. Lots of stories to tell but no time to do it right now. I'll try to give more details soon!!