Thursday, February 28, 2013

His First Voyage: A Picture Book

by Drew Martin
The nice thing about having my own gallery, even if it is only the size of a closet, and especially because it is a place that nobody would care to visit, is that I can do whatever I want, whenever I want without any silly promotion or liquored opening.

Tonight I took down Letters from the Past, archived the contents as I had intended, and then I put up a new show První Plavba (First Voyage). The title comes from the Czech translation of Herman Melville's Redburn: His First Voyage, which he published in 1849, two years and two books before Moby Dick. I bought a 1965 edition of the Czech translation for one dollar ten years ago in the unfrequented used-book back room at Barnes and Noble on Route 17 in Paramus, New Jersey. I was shocked to find a collection of Czech books there and I am sure that I had the best intentions to actually read it but that is not going to happen in this lifetime.

The incentive for this show came from an urge I have always had to take such a book and strip out and display all the pages with drawings. První Plavba has 62 black and white ink illustrations drawn by Josef Novák. Even if another viewer could read Czech, the story is now fragmented but the narrative is maintained in the pictures.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


by Drew Martin
I watched a beautiful film the other day called Alamar, which documents the time a five year old boy spends with his Mexican father in a sea world around Banco Chinchorro, the largest coral reef in Mexico, before he returns to live with his Italian mother in Rome. There is a lot of sunshine, crystal clear water, fresh fish, flawless tan skin, and carefree days.

The story is real; the “characters” play themselves, but the movie exceeds the boundaries of documentary filmmaking. This is a film about the stages of man in a timeless world.

I experienced the movie not as a romantic view of a fisherman’s life in a pristine environment, but as a kind of future recollection of the boy’s memory of the time. We witness scenes that are innocent without being sentimental, and the beauty of the location is never gratuitously framed; we are immersed in it.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Numbing Numbers

by Drew Martin
There is no numb in numbers; the words are not related in English, but it is a curious overlap, and perhaps a factor in viewing numbers as something impersonal in our culture, although this seems to be a common thought around the world. The definition of numb is being deprived of physical sensation, and lacking emotion or feeling. Numbers might identify with this if they had a mind of their own, or do they?

I recently read the Adweek article, The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth, which is about quants (quantitative analysts) taking the adworld scene by storm.

The number of ad campaigns based on algorithms doubled last year versus 2011. In the coming years, they are expected to account for nearly half of all campaigns, according to Forrester Research. Meanwhile, this year the world’s catalog of digital data is expected to reach some 2.7 zettabytes—an amount of information so large it would take 700 billion discs to store it all.
By itself, all that data is useless, naturally. That’s why numbers people are in such high demand—not just any numbers people, but creative quants who can keep pushing online ads to the next, more sophisticated level.

The thing is, we really love numbers even though we often dismiss their true meaning and importance. I watched Moneyball last night, in which Jonah Hill plays a young statistician who changes the game of baseball by using quantitative analysis as the brains behind scouting for the Oakland A's. Moneyball is really a look at how numbers and statistics are culturally received. It is not just a computer-age phenomenon, but something in the fabric of our history and time itself. It is the story of Arabic numbers with their decimal place and the introduction of zero. It is the explanation of the cosmos as Kepler mathematically worked out Brahe's renewed observations of the stars and planets, and it is also the story behind the greatest misstep in the history of science; Charles Darwin's snub of Gregor Mendel's theory of genetics. Darwin was a brilliant thinker who created a world wide web of information through his extensive travels and species collection, as well as through his thousands of correspondences to scientists around the globe, and yet he barely looked at Mendel's work.

If there is a lesson here, it is that instead of waiting for the mathematical structure to be teased out, an approach through math is a worthy pursuit. I am sure there is an algorithm, which would explain the cultural resistance to a quantitative approach that would reveal the fundamentals of something first cracked open by the human mind.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Chip Kidd Insights

by Drew Martin
Last year, at the beginning of January, I wrote a post about the Princeton University online lecture SIGNALS GraphicChipDesignKidd. I wrote:

Chip Kidd is an author, editor and graphic designer, best known for his book covers for Knopf where he has worked in design since 1986 and is now the associate art director. Kidd is a captivating, colorful and articulate speaker. This lecture is a 
must-see for graphic designers; he speaks about time and sequence, color crescendo, making typography" look like it is in denial," the fine line between minimalism and boredom, and most importantly figuring out your idea and concept before trying to make it look good or leading the project with style in mind.

I was discussing design films last night with someone and suggested Helvetica, and Milton Glaser, To Inform and Delight. I also mentioned the Kidd lecture. Today I looked to see what other lectures Kidd has out there, and I found this one on YouTube from a few years ago of a presentation at Mineapolis' Walker Art Center: Chip Kidd Insights Lecture. A couple things are repeated, but it is still worth watching, just skip over the introductions.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Man on Wire

by Drew Martin
I just finished watching Man on Wire, a 2008 British documentary about the French high-wire artist, Philippe Petit. On August 7, 1974 (my mom's 34th birthday), Petit performed on a high-wire between the top of the Twin Towers. Petit and a small team installed the 450-pound cable during the night without permission or detection. Petit and the support crew snuck into both of the 110-story buildings of the World Trade Center, shot an arrow with a lead wire from one building to the other and stretched the cable between their roofs. That morning, he spent more than 45 minutes on the wire with a 26-foot-long, 55-pound balancing pole before he was forced off by the alarmed police, who called in a helicopter. It was a moment that entwined grace, fearlessness, absurdity, stupidity, brilliance, six years of diligent planning, Mission Impossible logistics, extreme focus and steel athleticism. In a post 9/11 world, the film is as much an homage to the Twin Towers as it is a documentary about Petit. While his guerrilla-style high-wire stunts are a kind of performance art, and a metaphor for life and death, much of his planning was very sculptural and photographic. Petit made scale models of the tops of the World Trade Center and extensively photographed the site from the roof, and also from a helicopter. My favorite “art” scene of Man on Wire is when Petit first visits the observation deck of the World Trade Center and thinks the challenge is impossible. He retreats to the stairs and draws a "fresco" on a sheetrock wall of the unfinished stairwell. It depicts Notre Dame Cathedral and Sydney Harbour Bridge, which he had already conquered, and added a prescient drawing of him walking between the Twin Towers. He sketched the image because it was important for Petit to imagine himself realizing his dream.

Click here to watch the trailer.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Margin Call: Engineers without Borders

by Drew Martin
I watched Margin Call yesterday, which is a film set in 2008 that dramatically summarizes the fall of the investment bank (a thinly guised Lehman Brothers) that triggered the financial crisis and led to our recent recession. Not only is the acting good but the hierarchy of the company is aligned with the quality of the acting: Jeremy Irons, Kevin Spacey, Stanley Tucci.

Tucci plays the head of the firm’s risk management department, but is let go at the beginning of the film. He hands off a flash drive, with something he was working on, to a senior risk analyst, played by Zachary Quinto (the new Spock). Quinto’s work, based on Tucci’s calculations project the downfall of the company, and its snowball effect on the market. What is interesting is that both of these characters are former engineers. Quinto’s character was a mechanical engineer with an advanced degree in propulsion from MIT, and Tucci’s character was a civil engineer. While Quinto responds to a “rocket scientist” remark that engineering and finance are all about numbers, Tucci reflects on a bridge he “made” between Dilles Bottom, Ohio and Moundsville, West Virginia. He speaks about the positive effect the bridge had on the people who use it and runs through a series of calculations about how many miles and years of time he saved them from having to spend in their cars.

Pictured here is the Moundsville Bridge.

Click here to watch the trailer.

Click here to watch the scene about the bridge.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Letters from the Past

by Drew Martin
In the beginning of 1992 I walked away from my trailer on my aunt and uncle's property in the mountains of Santa Barbara and started traveling; first up and down the West coast and then to Europe, where I stayed for five years. In this time, writing letters was still the predominant way to keep in touch over long distances. The letters I was most prolific and diligent in writing were to my aunt and uncle in California. A few years ago, they returned to me all of the letters and post cards that I had sent to them during my five years abroad.

Most of the letters are decorated with designs and drawings. I wrote on doilies, the inside of envelopes, and on hand-crafted papers. Many of the postcards are altered in some way. On one, I rubbed off the coat of a horse and drew its digestive system. On another I added to the image of a placid lake to make it look like an elephant was walking on water. Some of the writing is incoherent rambling, which is painful to read, but a couple of the letters are really interesting reflections at milestones in my life.

I recently reclaimed a space in my house and returned it to a tiny gallery, where I had a show for a friend a couple years ago, His Girlfriend is Wack!. With friends coming over last night, I decided to put up the letters and have a small show for them.

I have not read through the letters so the show will stay up until I read the correspondences that I want to keep before I archive them in some manner and throw out everything else. I have already ripped up many of the letters and disposed of them.

My favorite notes include lines such as,

I am waiting for a ferry in Algeciras, España to travel to Tangier, Morocco, where we will travel to Fez tonight.

I never made it to Fez because a young woman (who I met on the train and was traveling with) and I decided to stop in Asilah and observe Ramadan with a local we met. She ended up having problems with him and other Moroccan men so we returned to Spain.

These are the most interesting letters for me because they teeter on the edge of the unknown future, which is now a definite past.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Das Fräulein

by Drew Martin
It was very simple when I was a kid; Yugoslavia was one country, and it exported a cheap car to America, the Yugo. By the 1990s this country, which lumped together more than twenty ethnic groups after World War I, had raging wars and entered the 21st century as seven new states: Slovenia, Macedonia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

I was living in the Czech Republic at the time the war was exploding. The only time I stepped foot in Yugoslavia was when I returned to Prague from Istanbul. The soldiers stopped the train in the middle of the night and made all the Americans stand out in the snow under guard as they moved through the train cars.

I recently became interested in visiting this region, mainly because of a familiarity with their languages. This weekend I watched a Swiss film, Das Fräulein, set in Zurich, which focuses on the lives of three women, a Serb, a Croat, and a Bosniak. The Serb and the Croat are older women who have made new lives in Switzerland. The Serb has no interest in returning home; the Croat dreams of it. The young Bosniak is the life of the film and it is through her character that issues of generational differences and expatriatism are stirred up. Her waywardness and recklessness are pinned to her youth, when in fact is the way she reacts to battling leukemia. It is a good film, which I recommend watching, but the viewer should know something about the region and the complex ethnic conflicts that led to more than 100,000 deaths and tens of thousands of rapes.

Click here to watch the trailer

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Grappling with the International Olympic Committee's Decision to Drop Wrestling

by Drew Martin
Wrestling is the most disciplined sport. You know who I used to hear say that all the time? – the tough guys in high school who played football in the fall and then wrestled in the winter. I wrestled for eight years; from second grade through my sophomore year in high school before I switched to winter track for that season. If you ask me about running, I will start by talking about wrestling, which is what turned me into a runner. I used to run after practice with plastic wrap around my waist to stay in my weight class. I hated the sport at times. It was pure torture some years, especially my last year when I had to drop thirty pounds (because I gained forty pounds between seasons). The workouts were grueling. Some kids wore rubber suits to sweat even more than we naturally did in that windowless, brick-oven-of-a-room where "No Pain No Gain" was painted on the wall. The backs of my hands are still covered with little scars from when they got caught on kids’ braces. Punishment was tough. Once my brother and I left a meet in order to have dinner with our parents; we each got a 100 crabs. A crab meant to scurry back and forth across the wrestling room floor on your hands and feet (like a crab) while the rest of the team watched during a break from practice.

Despite anything negative I have to say about the wrestling, I still think of it as one of the most classic sports. It is all about core strength, which is ironic because it has been dropped from the list of 25 core sports for the 2020 Olympics. The LA Times wrote this in reaction to the announcement:

The sport many people believed should have been dropped, modern pentathlon, survived. How could this be? Well, this might be a clue: Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr., the son of the former IOC president, is vice president of the International Modern Pentathlon Union and a member of the IOC board….Many of the unhappy people don't even know what events make up the modern pentathlon. The sport was created because it features, get this, the skills required of a cavalry officer….in the 19th century!….At the London Games, athletes from 71 countries competed in wrestling. Athletes from 26 countries competed in modern pentathlon. Isn't worldwide appeal supposed to be one of the factors considered by the IOC?

It is hard to imagine that one of the sports which was central to the original Olympics and has been in the modern Olympics for more than 100 years is going to sit on the sidelines while "Olympians" compete in events such as canoeing, speed walking, synchronized swimming, golf, and ping-pong.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The World Outlook for Wood Toilet Seats

by Drew Martin
There is an interesting "Techwise Conversation" on IEEE Spectrum, Is Micropublishing the Death of Publishing – or Its Salvation? It is conducted by Steven Cherry with Thad McIlroy, James Morrison, and Philip Parker. McIlroy is an analyst and consultant for the electronic publishing industry. Morrison is a writer/editor/designer, and the brilliant Australian behind The Caustic Cover Critic blog. Parker is a professor of marketing at INSEAD, and author of hundreds of thousands of titles by way of his patent (7266727), which supports his invention for,

“Automatic authoring, marketing, and/or distributing of title material. A computer automatically authors the material."

 At first (the first few times I listened to his part of the interview) I could not wrap my head around what he was talking about. It seemed so post-human. Parker creates algorithms that create books from cover to cover in a matter of minutes, including a table of contents and supporting charts for the relevant information. The algorithms mimic the process of how an economist would gather and compile data. Cherry questions Parker whether his books with titles such as Webster’s Slovak-English Dictionary and 2007-2012 World Outlook for Wood Toilet Seats (which sounds totally absurd) are typical. Parker replies,

"Yeah, actually they are pretty typical. The publications are going after the long tail, or niche, topics that the publishing industry would normally not cover. And so for the toilet seat cover one, the inspiration for those reports came from microenterprises, mostly based on projects I was doing in Haiti and other countries, where small enterprises literally make very, very specific items. So if they want high-end market research or anything analytic, they would have to literally be down to that specific level. People don’t make products; they make very specific products. So the reports cover minutiae topics because that’s what importers and exporters generally sell."

Parker actually makes more and more sense the deeper you look into his projects. In Africa, he created 24/7 automated weather reports for people who had never heard a broadcast of the weather in their native language.

The most interesting part of the interview was Parker's insight on genre,

"Yeah. The basic idea, this is kind of the thought process of automation, is that you don’t create a software to write books or videos or PC games. We do all formats, by the way; it’s not just books. But you do it by genre, so you have to say, well, fiction versus nonfiction, and you could say, well, let’s do nonfiction. And then within nonfiction, well, there’s different types. There’s genres, there’s bibliography, there’s biographies, there’s crossword puzzles, there’s dictionaries. And then what you have to do is you say, no, that’s not really true. There’s no such thing as a bibliography; there’s an annotated bibliography. And then you say, no, there’s not really an annotated bibliography; there’s a sub-subgenre called Cambridge-formatted annotated bibliography, etc., etc.

And as you drill down within a genre and you can no longer find a subgenre, typically at that level you’ll discover that authors, the people who do them manually, actually follow very formulaic patterns. And that’s true for poetry and other types of writing styles as well. And so that’s what I meant by “genre,” is that you drill down to the point at which there’s a formulaic approach to authoring in that domain."

This leads to a conversation about poetry, with Parker commenting,

"Right. Within literature, of course, there’s subgenres of literature, poetry being one of them. And then you say, well, there’s no such thing as poetry; there are subgenres of poetry. And you could say sonnet, and you can say, no, no, no, there’s subgenres of sonnets. There’s metasonnets, there’s—etc. And when you get down to the very finite level, even within poetry, you have highly formulaic approaches. Like as in a sonnet we know that it has a rhyming pattern of AB, AB, CD, CD, EF, EF, and then GG in the final couplet. The first line is a question. The ninth line is a turn, which usually has the word but or yet or since, something like that. They’re somatic, and we decided to do metapoetry, where the poem is about the poem itself or about the author of the poem.

Shakespeare wrote a sonnet, No. 76, which was a type of metapoem, where he kind of complained a little bit that he was stuck using the same formula in writing his own poems. So it’s a metapoem because it’s about himself and the poem itself. We took that concept and created algorithms of a computer program writing sonnets, stating it cannot write a sonnet properly, but doing so, it writes a sonnet properly. So it follows the iambic pentameter formulation, has the exact correct number of lines. It’s highly constrained writing once you get down to that level."

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Borderline Dreams

by Drew Martin
I had a couple dreams last night that I remember. The first revolved around a library near my house in New Jersey where Michael J. Fox was working. There was a young man curled up on a cedar bench on the library’s back patio. He was clutching a cloth-wrapped bundle. It turns out he tried to deliver assault guns to the library the night before but it was closed so he decided to sleep on the bench to wait for the library to open. Apparently, the library had ordered the guns as a measure to protect the facility against an armed attacker. I met a woman at the library. She was a thin brunette business woman who I thought was older than me but then realized she was probably a year or two younger. We went outside and ended up lying naked on a grassy knoll under a crisp white Martha Stewart – Kmart collection quilt, and then my teenage daughter approached and told me it was time to go.

The second dream I had, started on a narrow cobble-stone street, lined by small stone buildings in disrepair. One side of the street was Poland, the other side was the Czech Republic. I was in an old, dirty Eastern European car (a Škoda or a Polonez), which was full of people. There were calls in Polish and Czech hawking the same items. One woman would yell a product in Polish, “Polish eggs!” and then another woman would yell in Czech, “Czech eggs!” This continued as the car slowly rolled down the street muddy winter street, which was barely wide enough for it. Then we stopped, and my father-in-law got out so he could buy some things. I got out too and saw crates of plums in the back of small, green farm truck. The plums were deep purple, almost black. They were huge but were all going bad and had broken skin. I realized I had to go to the bathroom so I walked down this border-town merchant’s street, and turned right down a side street where there was not much going on. At the end of the street was a tree-lined road, and beyond that was a field. Halfway down this street was an empty parking lot and a small white-washed structure with a painted sign - WC.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Botany of Desire

by Drew Martin
I saw a good documentary this weekend called Botany of Desire, which covers the origin and the evolution of apples, tulips, marijuana and potatoes. This is a really well-produced and interesting film, with a great narrative of interviews from people invested in these plants and Michael Pollan, author of Botany of Desire. Pollan proposes that we look at our relationship to plants from the plants’ point of view, whose propagation is dependent on our interest in them.

Apples and tulips started their journey in the hills of Kazakhstan and were spread throughout the world by humans. The legend of Johnny Appleseed is validated but the truth behind his history is not so flattering. He is said to have been a "seedy" character and because of the way he established orchards (from seed and not from grafting), there were not many edible apples, which thereby fueled the production of hard cider and an intoxicated period in American history.

The tulip section explores the bubble economy created around this flower in Holland in the 17th century, in which one of the most precious bulbs could sell for the value of the nicest homes in Amsterdam. Ironically, the color variations that were the most exotic were caused by a disease. This documentary shows the flower auction in Aalsmeer, Holland, which is a facility the size of 200 football fields and where 19 million flowers from around the world change hands every day.

"It is like a sea of flowers. It is almost like watching paint being mixed on a palette. You watch this line of Yellow sunflowers snaking its way through an ocean of red tulips."

There are many aesthetic comments like this in the film. One of the most interesting is about the coincidence that we share similar values of beauty with a bug, the bee, who is attracted to pretty flowers and symmetry.

The section on marijuana points out that a plant must have a specialty to attract us. This can be sweetness, beauty, sustenance or, in the case of cannabis, a chemical that we can get high from. It is said that only one culture we know of did not have a botanical vice; the Inuit, because it was too cold to grow anything in their climate. Although pot had been a historic drug, it was not until the latter part of the 20th century that scientists understood how it worked in the brain. It turns out that it affects the same receptor responsible for allowing us to forget, so we are not overwhelmed by the retention of information and events.

The potato section explains how this South American tuber made its way to Europe and fueled growth in previously famished areas, but that banking on one type of potato led to a total crop failure in Ireland during the potato famine.

The message of the film is that monoculture is bad, and biodiversity is good. This is not a bad metaphor for society, the workplace, and our own personal diversity of the food we eat, what we read, and how we occupy out time.

Click here to watch the trailer.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cloud 9

by Drew Martin
I watched Cloud 9 this weekend. It is a German film about a 67-year old married woman who falls in love with a 76-year old man. She is a seamstress and the man is a client, who asked to have alterations made to his pants.

The film is quite explicit, showing sex scenes between the lovers as well as one between the woman and her husband who is older than her lover. None of the characters are particularly likable. The husband is more into trains than his wife, the lover is regardless, and the woman is quite simple. This makes the affair less of a romantic dream and more of a geriatric romp.

While the film has been applauded for exploring the woman's angle of this extramarital affair, it is not hard to feel sympathetic to the old husband who wants to ends his days without such drama. In fact, the affair drives him to suicide.

Click here to watch the trailer

What Dreams May Come

by Drew Martin
I had a series of lucid dreams last night. I remember only the end of the one that I woke up from but there were three longer dreams that stood out. In the first one I was trying to get a special ticket to go somewhere in New York City. People were waiting in line by a polished marble wall with recessed brass plates. When it was my turn, I could not figure out any of the analog dials. It was all foreign to me; nothing made sense. A woman, with whom I had a conversation at the station earlier in the dream, appeared and helped me. She pulled the ticket-vending machine contraption out of the wall. It folded down and revealed a seismograph type device, a long brass cylinder, and something like a diddley bow. She explained that this helped translate information for Chinese-speaking commuters. I was fascinated how one, taught wire could mimic tones of the Chinese language.

In another dream I had been hanging paintings in the unfinished basement of my work building. When I went down to look at them, I discovered that another tenant had actually turned the space into a gallery. A young woman named Sophonia was furious with me because she thought I was crashing her show. She chewed me out for a good ten minutes but started warming up to me after a while. I wondered if I should tell her about the hidden space she did not know about.

In the final dream I witnessed a purse snatcher in action. I stopped him and he flipped out, because he said that woman he stole the purse from was a spy. So then I grabbed her, and she pulled something out of her pocket which I thought she was going to use against me but it turned out to be a suicide pill that she ingested, which she called Ridersol.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Whores' Glory

by Drew Martin
The best professor I had when I was working on my Masters in Media Studies at The New School was Richard Lorber, hands down. With a Ph.D. in Art History from Columbia University you would expect an esoteric discourse but for the media management course I took he was always practical and focused on the future of his students.

Lorber is the president and CEO of Kino Lorber, Inc., which is a New York-based theatrical distributor and DVD label "dedicated to the best in recent and classic world cinema and independent documentaries." At the time of the class, Lorber was president of Koch Lorber Films, which distributed foreign classics such as La Dolce Vita.

I mention Lorber because I am just as eager to see a film he places his bet on, as I am by a director I admire, or one that stars an actor I like. I recently watched Whores' Glory on Netflix, which was directed by Michael Glawogger, and distributed by Lorber.

This film is not a survey of world-wide prostitution but it plants the viewer deep in the scene of three very different prostitution hotspots: the highly organized "Fish Tank" in Thailand where the prostitutes pray at small shrines so they will have a lot of clients, the maze-like "City of Joy" in Bangladesh which houses hundreds of women, and the "Zone" in Mexico where one prostitute tells a story of a father who brought his 15-year-old son to her so she could "make him a man."

While the job of these women is the same, the culture of each location and religion, make them worlds apart. Most of the film focuses on the lives of the women but there are also plenty of insights from their clients who rationalize prostitution, speak of their urges and explain why they visit prostitutes when they have girlfriends or wives.

Mother Jones interview with director, Michael Glawogger

Read the New York Times Review

Watch the trailer

Friday, February 1, 2013

Prague as Moscow...Paris...Vienna...Warsaw...

By Drew Martin
In a very short scene in Mission Impossible III, Tom Cruise as agent Ethan Hunt disguises himself as Pavel Sobotka, a scruffy Bohemian. Sobota/sobotka means Saturday in Czech. Cruise even poorly utters two sentences in Czech to an airport ticket agent, "V Číně jsem ještě nebyl. Je tam hezky?" (I haven't been to China yet. Is it nice there?). The Czech cover is not random.

Movie trivialists say Hunt obtains the Czech passport in the first movie, but this scene is somewhat comical and does not tie the viewer to Prague, where that movie is set and filmed. The Mission Impossible (IV) - Ghost Protocol street scenes of Moscow are actually Prague, and the courtyard shots of the Kremlin are on the grounds of the Prague castle. It is interesting that three of the four films have a Czech connection. This made me think about other cities for which Prague has been the substitute. In addition to Cruise's Moscow, Prague was Warsaw in Yentl, Paris in The Bourne Identity and Vienna in Amadeus, which was directed by the great Czech director Miloš Forman. Prague has a multitude of locations and a very strong film history, centered around Barrandov Studios.

Once, to my surprise, I was walking around the West Village in New York City and happened upon a Prague street, which was designed for an episode of Law and Order. The exterior of the Blue Mill Tavern was masked with Alfons Mucha designs and cars on the streets had Czech or German license plates. It was not a believable scene but it was still interesting to see an attempt made to create a place that has served as a location for so many other places.