Wednesday, December 31, 2003

2003 OFCS Award Nominations

According to E!Online, yours truly is a web geek.

I must say that I'm very pleased with the nominations. More nominees are matching my own favourites than last year.

Disturbing Details

Reading this disturbing little anecdote by Imshin I remember how I felt after witnessing the same thing here in my very own neighbourhood.

People would usually do it in the middle of the night, hoping that their neighbours wouldn't notice them or recognise them. Many of them were people with titles before their names or the people who are supposed to be middle class, but they were all pensioners.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

They Only Have Themselves to Blame

Elections in Croatia and Serbia have another thing in common – reformist parties attributed to their poor election results by mishandling electoral legislation.

In case of Croatia, Račan's (Racan's) government left 1999 election law unchanged, thus keeping election districts gerrymandered in order to give extra votes for HDZ.

In case of Serbia, ruling reformists changed the electoral laws raising the limit for entry into Parliament from 2% to 5%. The idea was to reduce number of parties in Parliament and thus make simpler and smoother coalitions. Problem for Serbian reformers was in most of thus excluded parties being their natural allies, including Muslim, Magyar and Croat minority parties. Some of them joined forces, but in vain, getting 4% and staying out of Parliament. Now reformers must make deals with monarchists.

Monday, December 29, 2003

What Went Wrong in Serbia

Some people, like Instapundit, offer rather interesting explanations:

Obviously, the Clinton Administration failed to plan sufficiently for the postwar environment.

The real question here -- and it's a serious one -- is whether you can turn a dictatorship into a democracy without jailing, exiling, or executing the top few thousand members of the dictatorship's apparat.

Here in Croatia, on the other hand, there is relatively little news about Serbian elections. In some circles there is some gloating about Croatians electing "normal conservative centre-to-right party" while Serbs succumbing again to old style fascism and thus again proving undeniable truth that Croatia belongs to enlightened civilised Europe while Serbia should always stay in despotic barbaric Asia. On the other hand, mainstream (and state-owned) media play down Serbian elections as much as possible, probably fearing that some brave souls would try to compare rebirth of nationalism in those two countries.

Of course, there are some major differences. Croatia, unlike Serbia, went out of war victorious, it wasn't affected by years of sanctions of NATO bombardment. Living standard is quite high compared with Serbia (and depressingly low compared to Slovenia). In other words, there are significantly less frustrated people prone to express their displeasure by succumbing back to ethnic chauvinism. HDZ, former Tudjman's party, is under Sanader ideologically much closer to moderate nationalists like Vojislav Koštunica (Vojislav Kostunica) and his DSS than to loonies like SRS (even Croatian far right HSP party looks like bunch of choirboys compared with SRS).

In other words, at least on superficial level, Serbia has relapsed back much more severely than Croatia.

But the causes are the same – Tudjman's party in January 2000 was, just like Milošević (Milosevic) in Serbia nine months later, overthrown not by single political party with clear agenda but by rag-tag coalition of ideologically diverse groups connected only with desire to bring down former rulers. Once in power, Serbian "reformist" coalition, just like its Croatian counterpart, compensated lack of vision and policies with bitter infighting which only frustrated population and friendly voters and allowed defeated nationalists to recuperate and stage spectacular comeback.

However, this comeback, in case of Serbia isn't complete. SPO/NS, right-wing monarchist alliance that won 22 votes, is most likely to favour "pro-democrats" over their former allies and bitter enemies from SRS and SPS. I wonder whether the restoration of monarchy – part of their platform, apparently supported by some 75 % of Serbians – would play any part in coalition talks. If successful, that scheme would make them real Serbian kingmakers.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Serbian Elections – Nationalists Majority?

Based on the data collected from 54 % of polling stations, CESID – Serbian NGO specialised for election monitoring – predicts these results:

SRS - Serbian Radical Party, ultranationalists led by war crimes suspect Vojislav Šešelj (Vojislav Seselj) – 27,4 %
DSS – Democratic Party of Serbia, moderate nationalists led by Vojislav Koštunica (Vojislav Kostunica), last president of Federal of Yugoslavia, whose election has sparkled Milošević's (Milosevic's) downfall – 17,4 %
DS - Democratic Party, pro-Western liberals once led by slain prime minister Zoran Đinđić (Zoran Djindjic) – 12,7 %
G-17 Plus – left-centre liberals led by economist Miroljub Labus – 11,7 %
SPO/Nova Srbija – nationalist party led by Vuk Drašković (Vuk Draskovic), former charismatic opposition leader who became Milošević's (Milosevic's) ally at the eve of Kosovo War – 8,2 %
SPS – Socialist Party of Serbia, formally led by Slobodan Milošević (Slobodan Milosevic) - 7,6 %

That leaves only 6 major parties in Serbian Parliament ("Zajedno za toleranciju" coalition that gathers small left-wing, regional and ethnic minority party is around 4 % and most likely won't enter Parliament). Of those 6 parties:
- 4 are nationalist (SRS, DSS, SPO and SPS);
- 2 are led by war crimes suspects (SRS and SPS)
- 2 had their party militias responsible for atrocities in Croatia 1991 (SRS and SPO).


Latest seat distribution projection (based on 80 % of votes counted). Out of 250 seats in Serbian Parliament:
SRS – 82 seats
DSS – 53 seats
DS – 37 seats
G-17 – 34 seats
SPO – 22 seats
SPS – 22 seats

SRS, together with their former allies SPS can expect 104 seats. If SPO joins them, they could have 126 seats.

"Zajedno za toleranciju" is, according to latest reports, "on the edge of entering Parliament". With their votes, pro-democracy bloc would regain majority. This way, nationalists seem to be in the lead.

Serbian Disillusionment and Western Illusions

In couple of hours first results of Serbian parliamentary elections would begin to trickle to election HQs. It is still too early to tell how it would all end. One thing is certain - SRS – Serbian Radical Party, led by war crime suspect Vojislav Šešelj (Vojislav Seselj) – is going to be the strongest party in Serbian Parliament. Less is certain its ability to form new government – most observers expect three rival "pro-Western democratic" parties – DS, DSS and G-17 Plus – to forget their pre-election feuds and create coalition to rescue Serbia from ultra-nationalists.

On the other hand, I also notice that some foreign media hint that SRS, once it gains power, won't be so "ultranationalist". Surge of support for SRS is explained with deep dissatisfaction of ordinary Serbians with the way "pro-Western" government handled economy and indulged in the same excesses of corruption as Milošević's (Milosevic's) regime. Same thing happened with HDZ in Croatia shortly before and after the elections, when it became apparent that Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan) didn't have much stomach for keeping power.

There are differences between Croatia and Serbia, though. Unlike SRS, Sanader's party invested a lot in their make-over into "reformed" party which is supposed to be nothing more than Croatian version of conservative, centre-to-right parties which exist in "normal" democracies of Western Europe. Furthermore, Sanader, unlike Tudjman and unlike Milošević (Milosevic) in Serbia, depends on ethnic minorities for parliamentary majority; that alone has moderating influence on HDZ, forcing that party to significantly tone down its nationalist rhetoric. The most important difference is in Sanader having party to the right of his – HSP – and compared with them, HDZ indeed looks like moderate centre-to-right party. Serbian radicals, on the other hand, represent the extreme right of Serbian politics and Serbian electoral laws prevent minorities from having reserved seats in Parliament. For Serbian Radicals the closest thing to being "reformed" is new political platform that includes fighting for Greater Serbia through "peaceful and diplomatic means".

In short term, victory of Serbian Radicals would be good for Croatia – after inevitable comparisons with its neighbours, Croatia would definitely look like Good Guy and success story of Balkans. In the long term, consequences would be more negative – Balkan nationalisms have annoying habits of fuelling each other and Croatians, again feeling threatened by ghostly images of Greater Serbia, would embrace rhetoric of the extreme right.

It is in Croatia's long-term interest that today's elections in Serbia produce result that would guarantee democracy and stability.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Last Sunday

If you happen to be in Croatia, and like to shop for groceries on Sundays, tomorrow is the last day when you will be able to engage in such activies. From January 1st new legislation – pushed by Catholic Church - bans grocery stores from working on Sunday.

However, as some of my blog readers know, Sabor left a loophole for the most desperate shoppers – one grocery store per 5000 inhabitants would be opened on Sunday and it must have only 200 square metres of shopping space. What stores fulfil the criteria and what stores would get the licence is in the jurisdiction of local authorities.

While the legislation, among other things, had its backers and sponsors among owners of mom-and-pop stores in rural communities, it became pretty clear that some of the big retail chains have prepared for new rules, adapting their mega-supermarkets into small convenience stores.

In the meantime, Douglas Muir complains about similar practice in Germany.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Air Safety

Thanks to Diana, I noticed an interesting site containing information about all major aircraft crashes in last 34 years. I browsed a little bit and noticed only 4 major crashes on territory of former Yugoslavia (including the one that claimed Ron Brown's life in 1996) and 2 of airplanes belonging former Yugoslav companies. Most of the accidents took place in 1970s.

I recently began experimenting with MS Flight Simulator 2004 so it is quite interesting how piloting skills in real life are much more demanding than my own.

UPDATE: This site is far from perfect, though. It fails to mention crash that claimed the life of Džemal Bijedić (Dzemal Bijedic), former Yugoslav prime minister in 1970s. The incident, now forgotten, was great inspiration for conspiracy theories and sick jokes in those times.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Happy Holidays

To every reader of this blog, regardless of what and where is being celebrated.

Beef Trouble

I guess that after this thing blows over, word "beef" would be used only for some music industry phenomena.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Forces of Nature

Forces of nature conspired to make this Christmas memorable for citizens of fair city of Split. Throughout the day bura – dry northeastern wind – has reached 100-120 km/h speed, claiming the lives of two people early this morning. A couple driving a car has been killed by falling tree, while their son survived with serious injuries.

If you happen to get stranded in Split in this particular moment, I have one very simple piece advice for you: Don't go out unless you really have to.

Dune Revisited

Dune mini-series, new screen adaptation of Frank Herbert's popular SF novel, was recently aired on Croatian state television. In some ways it is better, while in some ways it is inferior to David Lynch's 1984 movie version. Mini-series was more faithful, which is hardly surprising, considering that four and half hours leaves much more space to develop plot and characters than in two hours of Lynch's version, chopped up by producer Dino de Laurentiis.

New version should be recommended to all fans of the novel. Scenery and special effects might look cheap, but the real magic of Dune is in the plot and characters. Real Dune fans would disregard cheap scenery in the same manner of trekkies who don't mind poor 1960s special effects of The Original Series.

Airing of Dune was also good reminder for all us Europeans that the censorship standards are still much laxer on this side of Big Pond – mini-series features couple of scenes with male and female nudity, unlike version for American television.

Monday, December 22, 2003

[ADMINISTRATIVE] Blogroll Additions

Phil Hunt's blog and Expat Egghead and Cathy blog added.

Playing Democracy

Neda Arnerić (Neda Arneric), former Yugoslav (now Serbian) actress known, among other things, for her steamy sex scenes with Richard Roundtree in Shaft in Africa, was elected to Serbian Parliament in 2000 on the ticket of DS, party of slain prime minister Zoran Đinđić (Zoran Djindjic). She has found herself in the middle of scandal showing how seriously democracy is taken in countries of Southeast Europe. While Serbian Parliament was electing Kora Udovički (Kora Udovicki) for the post director of Serbian central bank, only one vote decided the whole matter, because government supporters have troubles in having the number of MPs legally mandated necessary for such appointments. It was Neda Arnerić's (Neda Arneric's) vote that had settled the matter, but Serbian media later reported that Arnerić had been vacationing in Turkey during the vote. So, the story goes that someone has misused Ms. Arnerić's voting cards. While scandal continues to erupt, Democratic Party denies reports of Ms. Arnerić's resignation.

Serbian Trial of the Century

Serbian trial of the century began today. I don't think that I could predict the outcome, but one thing is almost certain – the complete truth about Zoran Đinđić's (Zoran Djindjic's) assassination won't be revealed there.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

What War Is It, Anyway?

Reading about war in Iraq in blogosphere and elsewhere, I noticed that many people try to put this war into patterns of past conflicts. Most left-wing and anti-war bloggers are putting the sign of equation between US military involvement in Iraq and US military involvement in Vietnam. Right-wing blogosphere, on the other hand, tries to present US war in Iraq as a remake of WW2; the only issue is whether the US military and war-making results are on 1946 or 1942 levels. Some go far in the past. In latest Feral Tribune I noticed an excerpt from the article by Ben Bagdikian, in which he compares US invasion of Iraq 2003 with Napoleon's ill-fated campaign in Russia 1812.

All those comparisons miss one important point. Trying to explain present-day events through past examples represents either intellectual laziness or inability to comprehend them. If someone tries to think of present-day Iraq in terms of Vietnam War or WW2 he/she would have to experience, sooner or later, the very same rude awakening as those military experts in 1914 who had all their expectations of major European conflict based on 1871 experiences. In other words, each conflict is unique and history, contrary to conventional wisdom, doesn't repeat itself, at least not with such detailed precision to allow predictability.

However, I think I have found a past war that have few striking similarities with events in present-day Iraq. It is Boer War, which have been fought between British Empire and independent Boer republics of today's South Africa between 1899 and 1902. Today this war is all but forgotten, for various reasons, some of them I had written about in my review of 'Breaker' Morant, one of rare motion pictures dealing with it.

Let's see what Boer War and current US military involvement in Iraq have in common:

1) In 2003 USA is supreme military and economic power in the world. In 1899 British Empire was supreme military and economic power in the world.

2) USA justified its invasion of Iraq with the need to increase American security and keep strategic resources from being used by American enemies. British Empire in 1899 was concerned with gold deposits in Boer territory being used to finance army that would threaten British colonies in Africa.

3) In 2003 US invasion of Iraq was almost universally opposed by world's public opinion and the overwhelming majority of the world's governments, including such countries like France, Germany and Russia. In 1899 British war against Boers was universally opposed by world's public opinion and countries like France, Germany and Russia – for different reasons – also gave tacit or even more explicit support for Boers.

4) In 2003 US military was widely expected to easily crush Iraqi armed forces; despite some minor setbacks, such expectations were met and territory of Iraq was occupied in matter of weeks. In 1899 British military was widely expected to easily crush Boer armed forces; despite some minor setbacs, such expectations were met and Boer republics were occupied in matter of months.

5) The end of "major combat operations" in Iraq 2003 was followed by the rise of Iraqi insurgency, which proved too organised, too sophisticated and too brutal for US military, obviously unfit to deal with irregular forms of warfare. In 1899 defeat of Boer conventional forces was followed by the rise of Boer guerrillas, whose tactics, level of organisation and irregular combat skills proved to be a serious problem for British military.

6) In military terms, Iraqi insurgents represents nothing more than a nuisance; their mere presence, however, requires USA to keep disproportionately large army in Iraq, draining the world's strongest nation financially, psychologically and politically. A century ago, Boers couldn't chase British out of their country, but their mere presence forced Britain to keep quarter million of men in the far corner of its Empire and increased the financial, political and psychological cost of war.

This is where similarities between present US involvement in Iraq and Boer War end (or not – 2003 US media frenzy over Jessica Lynch is in many ways similar to the way British press in 1899 covered Boer siege of the British outpost in Mafeking), and where pundits are going to make mistake of trying to predict the future based on past.

For example, Americans, in most likelihood, can't or won't use British recipe for ending the war. Despite Guantanamo looking like a holiday resort compared with majority of world's prisons, any idea of putting civilian population of "Sunni Triangle" into similar institutions – "protective detention centres", "strategic hamlets" and all other names for phenomenon commonly known as "concentration camp" – is going to increase world's anti-Americanism to the levels intolerable even for the most arrogant and most chauvinistic segments of US government. On the other hand, Iraqi insurgents and whatever and whoever lies behind this phenomenon is over-demonised in American media so, unlike Lord Kitchener, Americans can't negotiate the end of war. Finally, unlike early 20th Century, world (and American) public simply wouldn't have stomach for a settlement in which two sides settle their differences and the expense of third, which happens to form majority of country's population (in 1902 British and Boers could do that to native Africans; in 2003 US government and "Resistance" can't do it to Shias, Kurds etc.).

Would Iraq become prosperous and stable Middle Eastern democracy in matter of few years or would it continue to be nasty quagmire of fanaticism, guerrilla warfare and sectarian violence? The answer for this lies in the future, not in the past.

Rock'n'roll Scrooge

Rafael "Rafo" Dropulić (Rafael "Rafo" Dropulic), winner of Story Supernova Music Talents contest, tried to reconcile his rock star antics with the image of good Catholic boy from small, God-fearing town of Ploče (Ploce) in Southern Dalmatia. Or, at least, that was impression given by the announcement that he would donate his award money to the local priest and thus allow him to build proper church – something that Ploče had been denied through the years of Communism.

But, according to today's Slobodna Dalmacija, "Rafo" denied that he would make such noble donation. He said: "Padre would get nothing. What Rafo earned, Rafo would spend for himself."

Making such statement few days before Christmas, in a time where all Croatians are supposed to be good, generous Christians, is definitely going to create some major PR problems for "Rafo". On the other hand, such controversy would undoubtedly help preserve "Rafo" in the media spotlight.

Saturday, December 20, 2003


Croatian state television news in English added to Croatian links.

Khadaffi in Canosssa

"When Dubya tells you to jump, all you can do is to ask 'how high'".

This lesson, which wasn't appreciated by Saddam Hussein, was apparently learned very well by former Liberian president Charles Taylor. It is also apparently learned by Lybian leader Moamer el Khadaffi.

This, so far, represents the biggest victory in Dubya's War on Terror – former arch-enemy of America not only justifies whole WMD story, but also shows how the war in Iraq indirectly had beneficial effects on world's security.

It is too early to tell whether this would have any impact on US presidential elections. The smart money so far is on Bush. If Democrats manage to pull the rabbit out of hat, it definitely wouldn't be in the area of American foreign policy.

Friday, December 19, 2003

RIP Dr. Branko Horvat (1928 – 2003)

Dr. Branko Horvat, one of Croatia's greatest economists and multiple Nobel Prize for Economics nominee, has died.

For majority of Croatian population, which doesn't seem to care about economics until it hurts their wallet, Dr. Horvat is best known as one of the last die-hard and unrepentant old-style Communists. This perception, created together with his far left SDU party in 1992 and his vocal opposition to violent dissolution of Yugoslavia, is in sharp contrast with his image of dissident created during Communist years. In late 1980s Dr. Horvat was one of very few and very brave people who expressed sympathies for Kosovo Albanians and even supported heretical idea of turning Kosovo into full-fledged republic of former Yugoslavia. Later Horvat challenged Communist authorities by creating UJDI – Association of Yugoslav Democratic Initiative – small NGO that was supposed to become first non-Communist political party and basis for peaceful transformation of Yugoslavia into modern liberal democracy. That initiative, together with many of Horvat's ideas, was swept under the carpet of history. Horvat nevertheless kept his integrity, and his opposition to dominant nationalism in Croatia was later matched by his equally spirited criticism of "wild", unrestricted capitalism in early 1990s Croatia. Horvat's recipe was return to "self-management" style of socialism that was supposed to reconcile free market economy and welfare state. His SDU party, after managing to snatch a seat or two on local elections, fell prey to internal divisions and faded away, leaving former Communist ideologist Stipe Šuvar (Stipe Suvar) and his SRP to carry the torch of Croatian far left. History wasn't kind to Dr. Horvat and his ideas, but future generations are going to appreciate bravery with which he had defended them in most inopportune times.

I Saw Salam Pax!

He was interviewed by BBC World couple of minutes ago. It is very strange to finally see a face behind the name. I had always imagined him to be much more skinnier.

Seeing him able to show his face to the public is reassuring thing. Perhaps things in Iraq are going for the better after all.

I hope that Riverbend would also be able to follow his example.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

And Now Something Completely Different

Jonathan Edelstein makes history with the world's first piece of Monopoly fan fiction.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Movie Observation

I must make another observation related to Story Supernova Music Talents. In German film Big Girls Don't Cry, recently released in Croatian video stores, there is character of amateur singer, played by Josefine Domes, woman whose look is eerily similar to the look of Natalie Dizdar.

Nova TV Co-Owner Shot

On Monday night Ivan Ćaleta (Ivan Caleta), co-owner of Nova TV, has been shot in Zagreb. Uknown assailant shot him twice in the legs. Ćaleta himself drove to hospital. Police doesn't treat this as attempted murder claiming that the assailant was "expert marksman" who "could have killed Ćaleta if he had wanted to".

It is too early to tell what lies behind this incident. Most fingers would be pointed towards still unresolved control feud over Nova TV and its upcoming sale to Murdoch.

I believe that insane fan unhappy with the outcome of Story Supernova Music Talents show isn't beyond the realms of reasonable suspicion.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Clash of Losers

General Wesley Clark, US presidential hopeful, has testified in Hague on the trial against Slobodan Milošević (Slobodan Milosevic), currently running as a candidate of his SPS (Socialist Party of Serbia) party on upcoming Serbian parliamentary elections.

This is not the only interesting coincidence. Both men were bared from turning the testimony (and cross-examining) into opportunity to score some political points. Clark was banned by State Department, while ICTY banned Milošević from campaigning.

Something tells me that two men would have something else in common, at least after December 28th when Milošević's party is expected to fare very badly.

What To Do With Him

While Kofi Annan opposes death penalty for Saddam Hussein, British government is taking more flexible approach. I think that the latter is correct way to handle this issue.

British government supported the war, knowing that it would claim the lives of thousands of innocent civilians. Showing more respect for the life of someone who ultimately deserved the fate suffered by aforementioned thousands would represent hypocrisy that goes beyond lowest standards of early 21st Century politics.

This policy would also have disastrous political consequences in Iraq itself. One of the few things where there is wide consensus among Iraqis, regardless of their faith, ethnicity, gender, political persuasion etc., is the way Saddam Hussein should pay for what he did to their country. To deny them this sort of justice would only rub more salt in the wounds of national humiliation. And Saddam Hussein alive, even behind the walls of maximum security prison, is Saddam Hussein that has slim chance of getting out and continuing to scare and torment his victims. I guess that even some of Saddam's die-hard supporters would prefer trial that could ultimately fetch them martyr-like figure to rally around – something that Saddam himself refused to provide in that hole.

Monday, December 15, 2003


I removed some dead or unimportant links.

More changes might happen in the near future. Design is going to stay the same, but content and frequency of updates is going to be different.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

The Nightmare Is Over

It is over. Finally, after many months it is over.

They got him.

We can now sleep safely knowing that it is over.

I'm not talking about Saddam Hussein. I'm talking about thousands of Croatian teenyboppers electing Rafael "Rafo" Dropulić (Rafael "Rafo" Dropulic) as Story Supernova Music Talents final winner.

Better Than Expected?

First few weeks after the election, Ivo Sanader is giving much better impression than expected. Explanation for that can be found in Croatian media – many professional pundits are "adjusting" to new reality and start to praise the man who have been demonising only few weeks ago.

Another reason is objective – Sanader won elections with very tight margin; with exactly the same results and Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan) marginally more interested in keeping power, he wouldn't have reasons to call this victory at all.
That left very few options for Sanader to form the government – HSP as coalition partner was unacceptable for his European cheerleaders; HSS as coalition partner was unacceptable for HSS rank-and-file; that left only ethnic minorities and pensioners as a base for something resembling stable parliamentary majority. That, if not anything else, would have moderating influence on HDZ government.

But the most pleasant surprise comes from Sanader himself. He seems to continue with election campaign, only this time it is directed towards people who were voting for someone else. The idea is to overcome possibility of parliamentary gridlock and blackmail by appealing towards general public with the idea of "consensus politics".

So, the arrogance that used to be characteristics of HDZ during the "good" old days is luxury Sanader simply can't afford these days.

Sanader instead tries to win hearts and minds of the former anti-Tudjmanist people. He gave two interviews to Slobodna Dalmacija, and both interviewers – Djermano "Ćićo" Senjanović (Djermano "Cico" Senjanovic) and Zlatko Gall – were generally regarded as people of left-wing political persuasion. There he repeated views that were indistinguishable from the views of any Croatian politician who had ran against former Tudjmanists in 2000.

However, if Sanader wins over people outside his natural political base, it wouldn't happen because of his rhetoric or charm. He simply seems to be more confident politician than Račan (Racan) and, this, more than anything else, is why he is going to be acceptable to the Croatian left. And, since Sanader's political platform – apart from ideological rhetoric - is carbon copy of Račan's, the only difference is in the way it is put in practice. Sanader, unlike Račan, gives impression of actually doing something while in power.

Only the future would show whether that "something" is going to be good or bad. First signs point to the former.

They Grabbed Him?

It seems that Saddam Hussein is captured. For many people in the world Christmas is going to be much merrier than usual.

That might change the state of affairs in Iraq profoundly, and it might not. Some insurgents whose only motive for resisting US occupation was loyalty to Saddam are going to lay their arms. On the other hand, some who were hesitant to fight USA simply not wanting to be associated with Saddam might join the ranks of resistance.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

RIP Dr. Ivan Bilić (Ivan Bilic) (1933-2003)

People die every day, but lately it happens with higher frequency than usual. My impression is in most likelihood very subjective, because I noticed too many obituaries of people I know or I am related to. In last couple of days I lost a relative, than a close neighbour, and finally, in today's Slobodna Dalmacija I read obituary of Dr. Ivan Bilić (Dr. Ivan Bilic), man who taught me Political Economy at Split University.

Economy is the area whose importance in life I discovered relatively lately, just like many people of my generation. So, his course was initially boring compared with others, but Professor Bilić made it interesting with his lectures, during which he began to open my eyes about some facts that I had only most abstract ideas, having to grow up under Communism.

During his most of life, Dr. Bilić had to live with the burden created by his of reputation of Croatian nationalist. When being Croatian nationalist stopped being burden and became an advantage, Dr. Bilić was one of those people who refused to abuse it and instead kept his professional, academic and human integrity.

Dr. Bilić is survived by wife and two sons, one of which is Slaven Bilić (Slaven Bilic), famous soccer player.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Thanks For Sharing

Of all Story Supernova Music Talents contestants, Nera Stipičević (Nera Stipicevic) gave the impression of being of most serious, professional and down-to-Earth. Yet, for some strange reason, she followed example of Ivana Radovniković (Ivana Radovnikovic) and informed public of something that was never supposed to be public business. Nera claims that she is constantly being hit on, despite her well-publicised and committed relationship with unnamed pilot trainee. But the strangest thing, according to Nera, is that most people who try to score with her are women rather than men.

How could we explain another "more information than we currently need" outburst of Story Supernova Music Talents contestant? Inexperience? Frustration? Or does Nera simply follows the example of Britney Spears? At the eve of grand finale contestants are doing their best to increase their fan base. By associating herself with lesbianism, even in this seemingly innocent form, Nera is going to increase her popularity among Croatian teenage males.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Croatian Big Brother

Reality show segment of Story Supernova Music Talents is the most pathetic in its last week. Contestants are herded in front of camera and forced to answer telephone calls of their fans. Many of them are sick or give impression of being sick, cough all the time and joke that their grand finale would feature Joe Cocker impersonations.

But today Saša Lozar was more enthusiastic than usual. He announced that Nova TV would soon start real Croatian version of Big Brother. All Nova TV wants are volunteers between ages of 18 and 30. Lozar and the rest of the crew were happy to see someone being put to the same torturous experience of 24/7 television coverage and thus relieving them of their misery.

I don't know what to think about Croatian Big Brother, but, judging by previous reality show experiences, one thing is certain – every contestant is going to gang up against pretty blonde.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Money Talks

Article in today's Slobodna Dalmacija describes how Dugopolje incident was nothing more than Torcida's retaliation for similar road ambushes of their members near Zagreb. Those ambushes, however, never escalated into torching cars together with their occupants. Everyone fears what BBB might do in order to retaliate to Dugopolje.

In the meantime, officials Croatian top soccer clubs' officials are changing their tunes in regards to the idea that used to be floated few years ago – creating new international soccer league that would, among other things, include clubs from Serbia and Croatia. Similar model was already tested with basketball and Goodyear League.

Croatian soccer club officials initially opposed the idea because of security considerations – tensions between competing fans could be too high. Then again, judging by the feud between two Croatian soccer fan groups, Croatia is going to experience soccer violence one way or the or the other. What matters for cash-strapped Croatian soccer clubs is money. By having extra competition they would get bigger attendance in stadiums, wealthier sponsors and more opportunity to promote their talents – in other words, more money. And the money is what ultimately matters in soccer.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Bring Them Young

British government is seriously considering lowering voting age to 16. They are justifying that decision with 16-year olds being considered mature enough to drive, have sex or marry (with parents' permission). So, being mature enough to vote is next logical step. They also talk about this being a way to "stimulate young people to care about politics".

Although I don't have anything against the initiative, the reasoning behind it is nothing more than wishful thinking. Lowering the voting age to 16 would have no practical effect whatsoever – the number of people able to vote would slightly increase, while the percentage of people actually participating in elections would decrease.

In simple terms, young people don't vote. Their youth is in reverse proportion to their likelihood to walk to polling stationsHere in Croatia we lately had one of the clearest manifestation of that phenomenon in the form of Pensioners Party entering national parliament.

Due to demographic trends, young people in Europe have their share of general population rapidly shrinking. As a result, politicial establishment is increasingly dependant on older population and tailors itself to their needs and interest – at the expense of the younger population. Cultural and economic trends also point towards youth being disinterested in politics – 16-year old brats who still go to high school are not likely to worry about what would happen to them in even in the very near future; expecting them to have some kind of reasoned and well-thought opinion about tax rates and pension reform is exercise in futility. There might be some 16-year olds who are mature, interested in politics and able to have opinion about difficult issues – but they represent negligible minority.

But this initiative nevertheless makes Britain the "coolest" place of Europe. I think this was its main purpose.

I wonder what this initiative, if it becomes law, would do to German initiative of giving parents proxy votes of their children.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Road Warriors

Last night there Hajduk Split and Dinamo Zagreb had a National Soccer Championship game in Split. Such games are highlight of the season, although not because of the soccer itself – rivalry between Torcida and Bad Blue Boys, Split and Zagreb fan groups, is always there to provide material for bloodthirsty news media.

Last night, however, Poljud stadium and areas around it were quiet. Hajduk trashed Dinamo 3-1, as expected (any other result would have serious consequences for the vehicles and buildings around it). Police did its job, having Torcida and BBB separated and organising escort for vehicles carrying the latter.

Some vehicles from that convoy strayed and ended in Dugopolje, a place less than a hour of drive from Split centre. There they were literally ambushed by group of 40-something Torcida members. What followed was a big fight that left at least a dozen people injured and one vehicle completely burned.

It is ironic to see Hajduk and Dinamo having quiet little game without serious fan-related incidents only to have sequel in the form of amateur version of George Miller's Road Warrior.

Four Is More Than Three

Story Supernova Music Talents simply can't exist without some kind of scandals, controversies or, if anything else fails, plain old human drama. Last night the drama was created by the health situation, which turned ugly for the contestants. They are forced to live in confined spaces – sharing tables, rooms, beds, blankets etc. – and when one of them gets sick, everyone gets sick.

Last night public was informed that Damir Kedžo (Damir Kedzo) was hospitalised. Rafael Dropulić (Rafael Dropulic) appeared in wheelchair, surrounded by medics. Saša Lozar (Sasa Lozar) sang with totally unrecognisable voice. Tin Samardžić (Tin Samardzic) forgot his lines. Female participants proved to be tougher, but even they complained about fever and not feeling particularly well.

If you think this was travesty, you should have waited for the grand finale. Originally, phone poll was to decide three finalists, thus eliminating a the one out of four. Natalie Dizdar and Rafael Dropulić were announced as winners, thus leaving only one of out of two to be booted. Minutes before announcements organisers said that all four would remain in final, because "computer system went down due to phone network being clogged with calls".

I don't think that anyone would seriously believe in such explanation. Concerns about Nova TV image probably played much larger role in such decision. The network has pushed contestants too far – forcing them to live in light of cameras, perform, practice, record CDs – all that under contracts containing huge penalties for breech (5 million HRK, which is more than average Croatian pop star could expect to earn during his or her lifetime). Having some of the performers literally sacrificing health in order to fulfil obligations (and with Kedžo in hospital, some lives might even be at risk) would bring unwanted bad publicity, especially during negotiations about Rupert Murdoch buying Nova TV.

This decision might be controversial, but it couldn't be put in the same category with 1998/99 Croatian soccer championship. Some lives will be saved and it would also bring extra money to Nova TV – with pool of candidates increased, there would be more teenyboppers trying to turn their favourite into champion.

This might be both the worst and best moment in the history of Story Supernova Music Talents competition.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Children Are Our Future

The most popular movies in Split cinema theatres between October 23rd and November 23rd, according to data published in Hollywood magazine (number of tickets sold in brackets):

1) Spy Kids 3D (13446)
2) Matrix Revolutions (5720)
3) Once Upon A Time In Mexico (2463)
4) Hulk (2305)
5) Legally Blonde 2 (1657)
6) SWAT (936)
7) Bad Boys II (606)
8) Pirates of the Caribbean (598)
9) American Pie: The Wedding (336)
10) Mystic River (325)

So, little kids, just like in 1980s, are the future of cinema industry. Although I doubt that the film would have such good results without 3D gimmick.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Story Supernova Health Crisis

Former and current contestants of Story Supernova Music Talents show, who also happen to be inhabitants of Croatian equivalent of Big Brother house, have been struck by flu. Those who watch Croatia's most popularity reality show saw the ranks of their favourites decimated – Rafael "Rafo" Dropulić (Rafael "Rafo" Dropulic), Damir Kedžo (Damir Kedzo) and Saša Lozar (Sasa Lozar) are bound to bed, having 39 degrees (Celsius) temperature. The show was carried by those still healthy – Natalie Dizdar, Ivana Radovniković (Ivana Radovnikovic), Tin Samardžić (Tin Samardzic) and Nera Stipičević (Nera Stipicevic). Those five were briefly joined by "Rafo" who had jumped out of bed only to show people how brave he was.

I hope that the kids would recover. Tomorrow they are supposed to perform at big music show and the illness puts that in question.

RIP Zdravka Krstulović (Zdravka Krstulovic) (1940-2003)

Zdravka Krstulović (Zdravka Krstulovic), one of the best known and most popular actresses to come from Split, has died today. She had relatively few entries in IMDb, but two among them – Nase malo misto and Velo misto – happened to be among the most popular TV shows in history of former Yugoslavia.

She died in nursing home, being struck by Alzheimer disease that had ended her acting career few years ago. Her plight was overshadowed by tabloid reports about physical abuse by her daughter, fashion model and part-time columnist Ivana Krstulović (Ivana Krstulovic) and her son-in-law Blaž Davidović (Blaz Davidovic).

Zdravka Krstulović I would like to remember is the one that made me laugh my lungs out while I had watched her performing in adaptation of Pirandello's comedy in local theatre many, many years ago.

Local Issues

City of Split yesterday witnessed so far the most spectacular showdown between government and concerned citizens. HEP, national power company, wants to build new power station in the middle of Dobri, one of Split's oldest neighbourhoods and, ironically, very close to HEP regional HQ. Local residents are up in arms over that and yesterday they tried to prevent the start of construction. I must say that I support residents, although not out of environmental concerns. The new power station is going to be built at the very site now used as local parking lot. With parking space in Split reduced, gridlocks are going to be even less bearable than they are today.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

77th Vote

Furio Radin, MS representing Italian minority, is the man whose vote would allow Ivo Sanader to receive mandate for forming new Croatian government. Radin claims that he made such decision after consulting "Italian community and Istrian people". I doubt that IDS would be that enthusiastic about HDZ government. Their enthusiasm, if it exists, could be explained with the view that right-wing nationalist government in Zagreb would press Istrian voters to react by gathering around single regionalist banner, in this case IDS.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Master and Commander

I've just finished reading first in the series of Patrick O'Brian's novels. I must admit that I was slightly disappointed. At first, obscure maritime terminology was difficult to understand. The real problem was O'Brian's style and shifting of perspectives. After getting accustomed to it, novel was easier to read.

I understand why Hollywood refused to use it as a basis for feature film. Set in 1800 Mediterranean, with Spanish as French allies, it was too difficult to swallow to viewers with superficial knowledge of Napoleonic times.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

HSS Is Out

After, apparently very stormy, session of HSS Presidency, Zlatko Tomčić (Zlatko Tomcic) has announced that his party definitely will not become part of new governing coalition. It is unclear whether HSS MSes would vote support formation of Sanader's government.

In any case, this might be one of the good consequences of November elections. HSS, party known for the autocratic tendencies of its boss, has showed surprising degree of internal democracy – dissent from rank-and-file was such that Tomčić had to abandon his scheme of remaining in power no matter what.

Descent of the Legend?

First episode of Enterprise has just been aired on Croatian state television. I must say that I wasn't particularly impressed. Then again, I don't remember being particularly enthusiastic about first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Only time will tell whether Enterprise is really as bad as its reputation.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Not According To Script

The script for the creation of new Croatian government is not going to be followed by HSS. Zlatko Tomčić (Zlatko Tomcic) announced that he is against forming coalition with HDZ, but that he would urge HSS MSes to vote for it in Sabor and support it. Tomčić apparently came to this decision afraid of HSS being split, because many of rank-and-file and local bosses were dead set against the coalition and threatened to defect. Many HSS bosses are afraid for local and regional coalitions in which their party is enjoying comfortable symbiosis with "left centre" parties. Most are terrified with the prospect of HSS becoming nothing more than satellite party of HDZ and being blasted out of Sabor on the next elections, just as HSLS and DC did.

So, Tomčić is forced to remain in opposition. Whole concept of "supporting Sanader without coalition" is just a face-saving measure because Tomčić fears that some of Sanader's European cheerleaders would accuse him of sabotaging creation of "centre-right" government and forcing Sanader to make coalition with "unacceptable" HSP.