Mailbox

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Today in Mailbox: Saving electricity, the European Red Squirrel, music on Radio Prague in CBC rebroadcasts, work by artist David Cerny banned in Poland, the pronunciation of "Prague". Listeners quoted: David Eldridge, Beverley Chartrand, William Hollister, Steven Price.

It's Sunday again which means we are back with excerpts from your letters and e-mails. This past week has been European Week of Mobility and a number of events took place raising awareness of the importance of transport and mobility but also the significance of making travelling more environmentally friendly. The protection of the environment was also the subject of two other reports recently broadcast on Radio Prague. Both inspired Mr David Eldridge from England to send in a comment. The first one was about encouraging young people to save electricity and heat.

"Since 2002 I have been generating my own electricity through solar panels. It makes you very aware of how much electricity each household appliance uses. I soon realised the significance of running my old food freezer. It was using more electricity that all of my other electrical consumption put together. And forgetting to turn my computer off of standby mode in the evening will show up on my monitoring equipment next morning. Water is so easy to collect from rain off the roof and use it as 'brown water', reserving the mains supply for usage that really requires the water to be clean."

The population of the European Red Squirrel has been undergoing changes in the Czech Republic over the last decades and now a project involving schoolchildren is trying to monitor the incidence of the animal and its habits. Again, a response from David Eldridge.

"The red squirrel is extinct in most areas of Great Britain now because the grey squirrel carries the disease squirrel poxvirus which has mild symptoms in the grey squirrel but is usually fatal to the red squirrel. The grey squirrel now has a hold in Italy and appears to be spreading to other areas in Europe in the same way it has spread through Britain. The grey squirrel causes much more damage to forests than does the red, so for economic reasons I expect squirrels will receive much more attention in your country soon."

From animals to music. Beverley Chartrand listens to us in Canada and she is one of many Canadian listeners who have sent in questions concerning the music we play on Radio Prague.

"I heard the end of a wonderful piece of orchestral music played by Radio Prague on CBC Overnight on September 18 and am hoping you can tell me what it was. It was just before the 5:30 a.m. (local time) news broadcast by CBC1 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. I could not find any station logs for that day, but I am hoping you can. Even if you can send me a list of music broadcast internationally on September 17 and 18 I could probably figure it out myself."

In most cases we can tell you right away what the music was as we keep record because of copyright reasons. But the problem with the CBC rebroadcasts is that sometimes they play older programmes and unless you specify what was discussed in the programme it is difficult to guess what particular music you have in mind. So in this case, we would need a little more details to be able to track it down.

Staying with matters artistic, in February we reported on a case of censorship, when the authorities in a Belgian coastal town banned from displaying a work by the Czech artist David Cerny. The controversial piece was a sculpture called "Shark", featuring a life-size Saddam Hussein in his underwear with his hands tied behind his back, floating in a large glass tank filled with formaldehyde. Now we got an email from William Hollister, the curator of a recent exhibition in Poland.

"David Cerny's work of art 'Shark' was censored from an exhibition in Poland that I curated. One day after the opening of 'Shadows of Humor', possibly the largest representation of Czech contemporary art in Poland, a city official in Bielsko Biala demanded that the work be removed immediately, and ordered that the subject not be discussed in the media. From the perspective of David Cerny, the work had no serious problem when first presented at the so-called Biennale 2 by Flash Art magazine in Prague. The work did have problems in Belgium, where politicians clearly stated that the work may be offensive to the Muslim population (thinking momentarily that Saddam was a religious figure)."

Now a question from Steve Price who listens to us in the United States.

"I have noticed that you still pronounce Prague in the Germanic form of 'PRAG' instead of Prague, you know like Hague and Sprague. Why is that?"

Well, this sounds like a question that should be put to English linguists rather than Radio Prague, since we did not invent the pronunciation here, it is a result of centuries of mutual contact between European nations. But my uneducated guess is that since Praha is called Praga in Russian, Polish, Bulgarian, Romanian, Hungarian, Italian, Greek and Spanish; Prag in Serbian, Croatian, Gaelic, Welsh and Turkish and Prago in Esperanto, for example, there is nothing explicitly Germanic about its pronunciation in English and there is little reason why it should be pronounced differently even thought the French spelling resembles words like Hague.


Now we only have time to repeat our competition question for September.

"This month we would like you to tell us the name of the world-famous physicist who was born in 1838 in what is now the Czech Republic's second city of Brno and has a unit named after him which is used to define the speed of a moving object relative to the speed of sound."

I apologise for the definition which may not be accurate but let's hope it is understandable. Please, send us your answers by next Saturday, September 30th to english@radio.cz or Radio Prague, 12099 Prague, Czech Republic. There will be small prizes for four of you who send us the correct answer. Till next week, bye-bye.