John Lennon Wall

In this week's Mailbox: response to last week's programme dedicated to Jan Palach; graffiti and casinos in Prague; Magazine jingle. Listeners quoted: David Eldridge, Christopher Lewis, UK; Mary Lou Krenek, Mark Coviello, USA; Jonathan Murphy, Ireland.

Last week's edition of this programme was dedicated to the memory of Jan Palach, the Czech student who burnt himself to death in 1969 in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion. In the meantime we've had some response to the programme. Here is an e-mail from David Eldridge from the UK.

"It would be wrong to think of Jan Palach's suicide as pointless as it did catch the attention of the public, but ultimately his death hasn't significantly benefited his Czech compatriots... The legacy of Jan Palach blends into background of society. Contemporary humanity faces substantial problems and Jan Palach's input plays a part in how society deals with that dilemma."

And Mary Lou Krenek from Texas writes:

"Jan Palach was certainly quite a handsome young man. It goes beyond my understanding why someone would go to the extreme to express their view on such a tragedy as the Prague Spring. And, what a tragedy it was in the late sixties for Czechoslovakia! Was it worth his life and the life of others? He has become a symbol of the price one will pay for the truth."

In one previous edition of Mailbox we read from listeners' letters regarding graffiti in Prague. In response to that we have received this e-mail from Mark Coviello from New York.

"About 10 years ago New York City declared war on graffiti on the trains. Their theory was not to give credit to the artists. So when a train was tainted with graffiti they promptly removed the train, cleaned off the graffiti and then put it back into service. The logic of this was to deter the artist. Picture a graffitist working all night in vain and his work vanishes the next morning! A little sad when you think about it. It did take many years of this process to keep the graffiti under control, but it has worked."

And Radio Prague's regular listener Jonathan Murphy from Ireland had this to say on the topic:

"I'm afraid I must agree with the listener who wrote about the graffiti problem in Prague. I have seen worse in other cities, but coming from a relatively graffiti free country it is an unwelcome sight in such a beautiful city as Prague. Was it always a problem or is it largely a post-1989 problem? Removing it as soon as it appears seems like the best way of dealing with the problem, although it would require a change in attitude for it to stop."

Yes, graffiti is largely a post-1989 phenomenon although there have always been people who liked to scribble and paint on walls - but it was not graffiti as we know it today. But take the example of the "John Lennon Wall" in Prague. In the 1980s someone painted a portrait of John Lennon on it and people added their messages of peace and love. The portrait and poems of peace were repeatedly painted over by the communist police, only to be repainted by brave fans as a protest against the regime.

And one last comment on unsightly aspects of Prague. David Eldridge, from England, from whose letter we quoted earlier, also sent us his reaction to our recent "Letter from Prague" on the subject of casinos.

"I think the extension of the casino area to Vinohradska Street is appalling, and it will be an anchor for a possible change for the whole character of the street as it is in such a prominent position. In a few years time you might find people commenting that it is strange to find such a serious building as Czech Radio in amongst the playground establishments of Vinohradska Street."

On a different topic, Christopher Lewis from England sent us this question:

"While listening as usual to Magazine, I wondered what the music was that you use in the background. It intrigues me and I like it. Could you please tell me what it is and where I can get a copy please?"

Well, the music we use for Magazine, a Saturday feature written and presented by Daniela Lazarova, comes from an ancient reel but if the label is correct then it is "Jungle Jamboree" by Duke Ellington, played by The Jazz Fiddlers, and the recording was made in 1976.

And we are running out of time, so let's repeat our competition question for January.

"The sugar cube is something that everybody is familiar with but what do we know about its origin? This month we would like to know who, when and where first invented the sugar cube."

You have only until Tuesday to send us your answers to Radio Prague, 12099 Prague, Czech Republic or [email protected]. Next week we will announce the winner and also a new competition question for the month of February. Till then, good bye.