Sunday, February 29, 2004

They Are Back!

Saša Lozar (Sasa Lozar), Tin Samardžić (Tin Samardzic) and Damir Kedžo (Damir Kedzo), finalist of Story Supernova Music Talents, are back in media spotlight. Plan to combine their talents in single boy band became reality. The trio – simply named Saša, Tin i Kedžo – has made a song called 365. The videoclip for the song is going to promote Scary Movie 3, Hollywood film which is currently in Croatian cinema.

I watched only bits and glimpses of the clip, but I can say this.

Scary Movie 3 turned horror into parody. 365 turned parody back into horror.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Bad Taste or No Taste?

Globus has recently tried (and for the most part succeeded) to leave impression of the respectable weekly magazine. However, every now and then comes a time when its editors show the magazine's true colours.

Most telling example was latest issue. The cover story was big selection of 100 Sexiest Croatian Women. The selection was conducted by jury led by Maja Bolanča (Maja Bolanca).

I glanced at a story and made few interesting observations.

First, the winner is Renata Sopek, 25-year fashion model and part time TV-show host from Zagreb. I don't remember ever noticing that particular lady on the cover of magazines or on television. Although she would probably look attractive to an average male and although she had won few beauty pageants in her past (like 99% of Croatian fashion models), I really can't fathom the reasoning for her beating such established stars like Nina Morić (Nina Moric) or Severina (who won #2 and #3, respectively).

Criteria for selection of others are even more baffling. Overwhelming majoritiy are fashion models, but few of them are household names. There are some actresses, pop singers, some TV hosts, some newspaper columnists, one businesswoman and couple of spokeswomen. For many the only reason why they are in media spotlight could be found in their marriages or long-time relationships with famous Croatian politicians, business tycoons, athletes and entertainers.

Judging by the criteria, some women became sexy simply because they were successful in their line of work. Iva Majoli, tennis player and winner of 1997 Roland Garros, is also among 100 Sexiest Croatians although her face stands out among photographs of fashion models. Same goes for Ana Jelušić (Ana Jelusic), 17-year old alpine skier from Rijeka, whose presence in the selection brings question about non-presence of Janica Kostelić (Janica Kostelic).

Needless to say, instant popularity of Story Supernova reflected itself in the selections. Nova TV's hosts Monika Kravić (Monika Kravic) and Anja Alavanja are in the selection. Two SSNMT contestants – Natalie Dizdar and Nera Stipičević (Nera Stipicevic) – are also in the selection. However, Ivana Radovniković (Ivana Radovnikovic) is missing.

The most baffling thing about this selection is absence of Paola Poljak, Nova TV's weathergirl and probably one of the most popular television personalities in Croatia.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Lands That Time Forgot

Judging by the way CNN and BBC covered the news, world media has more pressing matter than the death of President Trajkovski. US presidential race, UN spy scandal, Haiti crisis, gay marriages in San Francisco and overhyped religious movies – all that is deemed more important than the plane crash that could very well reignite war in Macedonia.

But, this is hardly surprising. Southeastern Europe is the region that world media forgot and would like to remain that way. Countries are at peace, ruled by democratic pro-Western government and on their way to enter new era of prosperity under EU and NATO banner. News that could make cracks in that rosy facades are suppressed.

That explains why there is very little talk about new Serbian minority government being de facto supported by SPS, party made of the followers of Slobodan Milošević (Slobodan Milosevic). After Vojislav Koštunica (Vojislav Kostunica), leader of moderate pro-Western nationalists, claim that SPS is "reformed and doesn't have anything in common with the party that misbehaved in 1990s" most Western diplomats would gradually accept his view, only to pull Serbia out of media spotlight.

There is very little care about complex details of this part of world. CNN in its report about Trajkovski describes recent war in Macedonia as "conflict between Muslims and Christians". Words "Albanian" or "Slav Macedonians" were never used, although they would be more appropriate in the description of those events.

Needless to say, Matt Drudge never bothered to put news of Trajkovski's death on his website.

Same goes for ethnic clashes in eastern Slovakia. As Petr Bokuvka a.k.a. Daily Czech reports in his blog, Slovakian government used military forces in order to crush Roma (Gypsy) riots and plundering of shops. That news is not likely to be reported because Slovakia is supposed to be stable emerging pro-Western democracy where such things perhaps in the troubled past, but they don't happen now.

Climate, Topography, Literature and Movies

I have little bit of advice for everyone who contemplates watching some of this years' (or future) "Oscar" contenders.

If you are to watch expensive "Oscar"-oriented adaptation of the literary bestseller, never, and I repeat never, read the novel beforehand.

Even if the movie adaptation happens to be faithful to the literary source, you are bound to be disappointed in one way or another.

Novels usually have hundreds of pages of text and often deal with the events spanning years, decades and dozens of characters. It is simply impossible to squeeze all that into 120-150 minutes of film. So, some subplots, characters and situations are to be erased.

Even those characters kept on the screen look like cardboard copies of those on the paper. Novelist can write detailed history for each of them; screenwriter can describe character only in broadest of terms. As a result, what used to be fascinating and intriguing character in the novel turns into simplistic cliché in the film.

When you read about certain character, you often create a certain picture in your head. When you finally see this character on screen being played by Hollywood star or some character actor that appears in dozens of movies each year, there isn't any suspension of disbelief – you know that you are watching Hollywood blockbuster instead of being drawn into story. Impression gets even worse if certain character you liked in the book is being played by an actor or actress you can't stand.

Last but not least, knowing what would happen to characters doesn't do much for enjoyment in the movie.

On the other hand, most Hollywood's literary adaptations are usually not very faithful to the source. That usually doesn't make them much better. On the contrary, lack of creativity in modern Hollywood is less insulting when it is covered by someone else's literary talent.

Cold Mountain

Mt. Hrgud, place where Macedonian President Trajkovski met his end, used to be in media spotlight before. Between 1992 and 1995 frontline between Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Serbs used to go there. Presence of landmines in the areas is the main reason for hampering search and recovery effort.

This is another sad reminder that certain geographic areas can appear on news only in the most unpleasant of circumstances.

Death of Macedonian President

Boris Trajkovski, president of former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, has apparently died in a plane crash. The executive jet carrying Macedonian president has crashed on Hrgud, mountain near Herzegovinian city of Stolac. Trajkovski was travelling to international investment conference in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina. His plane disappeared from radar screens at 8:00 this morning and it is feared that Trajkovski died with 9 of his associates and crew members.

Trajkovski, Protestant clergyman often viewed as one of the most pro-American politicians in the region, has been elected in widely controversial presidential elections in which ethnic Albanians almost unanimously supported him while leftist opposition suffered because of Slav Macedonian vote.

Trajkovski's death, if confirmed, won't be the first such case in the area. In 1970s mountains of Bosnia claimed the plane carrying Džemal Bijedić (Dzemal Bijedic), federal prime minister of former Yugoslavia. In 1996 mountains in nearby Dubrovnik, Croatia were responsible for the crash that killed American commerce secretary Ron Brown. Both incidents created a whole set of conspiracy theories and I don't doubt that the same would happen with today's event.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

When Entertainment Becomes Politics

Miramax, Hollywood studio infamous for its aggressive and often very political campaigning for "Oscars", got the taste of its own medicine in the ad by rival Dreamworks SKG. The ad which implies that Renee Zellweger would deprive Shohreh Aghdashoo of her well-deserved "Oscar" is clear example of negative campaigning. Despite Academy attempts to clean studios' acts during "Oscar" seasons, the race for prestigious statues is becoming similar to the dirtiest forms of American politics.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Abortion Horror Film Update

According to Otvoreni Radio, Dragan Primorac, minister of science, education and sport in Ivo Sanader's cabinet expressed outrage over the abortion documentary being shown to the students in one of Zagreb's high school. After watching the Silent Scream himself, Primorac, physician by profession, said that he had never seen such graphic displays of surgical procedures during his years in medical school. He also said that he would talk to Nevenka Lončarić (Nevenka Loncaric), religious education advisor within his ministry. Ms. Lončarić has previously stated that she saw nothing wrong with the said documentary being shown to high school students.

Yesterday, SDP has officially sent open letter to minister Primorac, expressing outrage over the whole affair. Interestingly enough, Silent Scream became part of school curriculum while SDP used to be the government.

Having Cake and Eating It Too

Although he claimed that this was not what his gubernatorial run was about, Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn't rule out White House ambitions in the future. At least this is one possible interpretation of his recent support for "Schwarzenegger Amendment".

However, according to August 2003 CNN/Gallup poll, only about 30% Americans support such initiative.

In the same time, Federal Marriage Amendment enjoys somewhat bigger support – around 40-50 %.

This shows that the opposition to gay marriages is less strong than opposition towards foreign-born citizens becoming US presidents. It also shows that at least some pro-gay rights liberals are in the same time closet anti-immigrant bigots.

Or, perhaps, all the attempts to separate individuals into easily defined and simplified political categories don't have much to do with complex reality?

Violence and Young Minds

While some at Gene Expression claim that Passion is going to be the best film in history of cinema, Newsweek is more concerned about the effects of hyper-realistic violence, blood and gore on young viewers.

According to Jutarnji list, those concerns were absent from the minds of religious education teachers in one of Zagreb's high schools. In order to familiarise class with nasty side effects of premarital sex, teacher showed documentary about abortion. The documentary included graphic display of the procedure with all of its gory details. Needless to say, when confronted with those pictures, many students became sickened and started to cry. Some wanted to leave classroom, but the teacher forbade them.

It is hard to tell whether such shock tactics would work. I remember that showing equally gory pictures on Croatian national television during 1991-95 war didn't turn Croatians into pacifists.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

[ADMINISTRATIVE] Links and Blogroll Changes

Some blog links are updated, some blogs are added (mostly movie-related) and Croatian movie-related site is linked.

Blair and Drug Testing

Among those Croatians who consider themselves leftist, liberal, progressive or simply "hip", Bill Clinton was closest thing to role model and inspirational leader. Sometimes their appreciation of US President evolved into outright idolatry, not unlike the one Stalin created among 1930s and 1940s leftist establishment.

With Clinton out of White House, Croatians leftists had to find new foreign icon to rally around. Tony Blair, as Clinton's ideological twin, seemed to be perfect replacement (or even superior to Clinton, because his hold on Britain and ability to make a world better place was apparently better than the one you could expect from US President). In first nine months of 2001 all those couldn't stand George W. Bush in White House had comforting thought of Tony Blair making sure that Washington Usurper doesn't destroy Clinton's legacy.

Than came September 11th 2001 and Blair slowly began his descent from the pedestal of liberal deity towards reputation of Bush's lapdog. These days Blair's reputation among Croatian leftists is similar to the reputation Trotsky had among devout Communists in 1930s. Former ideological inspiration is now viewed as traitor and object of intense hatred.

Blair's chances to improve his standing within Croatian Bush-hating crowds probably won't be helped by his initiative to introduce random drug-testing in British schools. Similar (although less ambitious) initiative, which had been floated by Croatian government last year, was quashed by intense opposition that came not only from leftist, progressive and civil libertarian circles, but even from those segments of Croatian politics which are associated with conservatism and right-wing (Croatian Peasant's Party). Although the proposal was limited strictly to publicly-funded university dorms and left grammar and high schools out of it, words like "repression" and "human rights abuse" were the most common reactions to it.

I can only imagine how this measure is going to further reduce image of 1990s Blair's "cool" Britannia in Croatia. Once the beacon of progressive values, Britain is going to be viewed as fascist, oppressive Bush-loving Airstrip One.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

(Not) Blaming Nader

According to Fox News, Ralph Nader is most likely to announce his entering into presidential race as independent candidate. Such announcement is certain to be followed by savage attacks from Democrats. If there is one US politician more despised by Democrats than George W. Bush, it must be Nader. While whole hanging chads business in Florida business is disputed, nobody can deny that Nader's votes did play crucial part in delivering that state and the keys of White House to current US president.

It seems that Democrats, despite encouraging poll numbers, still feel concerned about the way the race could end in November. They are afraid that history might repeat itself and that Nader can again steal the victory from their hands.

I don't think that Democrats should worry about Nader this time. He is not likely to repeat his 2000 performance. Big portion, if not overwhelming majority, of his supporters is going to play it safe this time and give their votes to Democratic candidate. Michael Moore, former Nader supporter who despite his ultra-leftist views endorsed right-wing Democratic candidate, is one of such examples.

But even if decreased number of Nader's votes turn out to be enough for influencing the elections results, this doesn't mean that Nader should be called names and Republican stooge. Nader might be wrong about many things, but he is right about this – Gore in 2000 didn't lose because of Nader, he lost because of Gore.

Calling Nader not to run doesn't make any sense in the country that is supposed to be democracy and in which people are entitled to take part in political process according to their own will. Mere fact of Nader (or anyone else) being ideologically closer to one of two major political parties doesn't oblige him to deprive himself of a single opportunity to express his ideas and stand what he believes in. Accusations of "stealing", "wasting" or "splitting" votes also don't hold merit in the system in which the voters are supposed to be intelligent, well-informed individuals aware that their actions in voting booths might have serious consequences.

In 2000 Nader went into the race knowing that he would increase chances for George W. Bush. But Nader alone couldn't have produced such result. It took hundred of thousands of other people who made similar choice. Democrats who blame Nader should blame those hundreds of thousands and pay more attention to them in 2004 elections. They didn't do it in 2000 and they have only themselves to blame.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Per aspera ad astra

It seems that good old Europe, despite being significantly less prudish than America, still can produce some sex scandals of its own. German equivalent of Janet Jackson's Superbowl performance happened on this year's Berlin Film Festival. According to German tabloid Bild, Sibil Kekilli, 23-year old star of Head On, a movie that won festival's Grand Prix, used to make pornos only few years ago.

Festival authorities and Fatih Akin, film's director, say that knew of actress' past but they didn't mind.

But I fear that American distributors won't have such liberal view. Head On would probably have some difficulties in reaching wider audiences and Ms. Kekilli probably can't hope to repeat Hollywood success of her compatriot Franka Potente.

Story Supernova Strikes Again

A day after audition for Hrvatski Idol (Croatian version of American Idol), city of Split is going to host another audition for Story Supernova reality show. This time SSNMT is going to stand for Story Supernova Multi-Talents and contestants are going to show their skills in acting, modelling, news anchoring or simply being the entertaining person.

There are speculations that the new Story Supernova is going to serve as recruitment pool for Nova TV's upcoming projects, including soap opera.

By coincidence, this audition is happening shortly after public initiative for the founding of Drama School in Split. If this initiative bears some fruit, that would end the monopoly of Drama Arts Academy in Zagreb, institution whose antiquated and stage-oriented approach to new media resulted in terrible standards of acting in Croatian movies and television shows.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

HNS in Trouble

According to conventional criteria, HNS should be viewed as a party with few reasons to be dissatisfied with results of 2003 elections. From 2 seats in Sabor they jumped to 11 and are third party in Croatian Sabor. Furthermore, they are establishing themselves as most promising force within left-centre opposition – especially among those dissatisfied SDP voters who have trouble with Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan) and his "constructive" form of opposition.

But HNS is in trouble. The party has increased its number of seats in Sabor, but it lost power. This usually leads to frustrations and frustrations leads to factional struggles. Those struggles became ugly in Zagreb when Mislav Žagar (Mislav Zagar), chairman of Zagreb City HNS organisation, left HNS together with 13 of the highest party officials.

He explained his move by accusing party leadership of "lacking democratic principles" and "being involved in corruption". More cynical observers, however, see in this the work of SDP, namely its Zagreb deputy mayor Milan Bandić (Milan Bandic) who has been at odds with his nominal city coalition partners for months. With 3 of 11 HNS city councillors becoming independent, Bandić could prepare ground for the formal break-up, new elections and possible elimination of HNS as Račan's (Racan's) most dangerous rival on national level.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Kerry vs. Edwards

Although his string of victories continues, Wisconsin shows that Kerry isn't invincible. And with Dean conveniently out of the picture, "anybody but Dean" vote is going to be split between two equally electable candidates.

Kerry vs. Edwards contest is going to be quite interesting. Results from Wisconsin perhaps indicate that the intern rumour had some effect. Kerry suddenly became vulnerable and too Clinton-like for be as electable as it was presumed. For Democrats who want to beat Bush Edwards is much safer bet than Kerry – no Vietnam baggage, tidier private life and no stigma of Northeastern Liberal.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

10000th Hit

I think that 10000 hits (actually more, since the counter was established in seven months later than the blog itself) is worth mentioning. It took somewhat longer than I had expected, but another benchmark is passed.

More About Haiti

According to media reports, France is studying possibility of sending peacekeepers to Haiti. This is rather surprising, because Haiti is probably the last place I could imagine French troops to intervene.

Last time French send troops to Haiti things ended with humiliating disaster. This time they are better prepared and they could do much better job, but diplomatic consequences of this action could be terrible.

French military intervention in Haiti, especially if it is successful and if French indeed manage to establish some degree of peace and stability, could be viewed as nothing short of political and diplomatic humiliation for USA.

Ten years ago Americans sent troops to do just that. With French coming and doing the job, 1994 mission could be viewed as failure. I don't doubt that some more rabid right-wingers within American blogosphere would start mentioning Monroe Doctrine.

Worth Reading

Jonathan Edelstein writes short but informative piece about situation in Haiti.

Blog for Al!

How could I miss this one? Added to blogroll, of course.

Latin vs. "Thompson"

The long-awaited episode of Denis Latin's Latinica talk show, dealing with the controversy around Marko Perković "Thompson" and problematic lyrics of his songs, was aired on Croatian state television last night. Denis Latin began the show with a audio recording of "Jasenovac i Gradiška Stara" (Jasenovac i Gradiska Stara) accompanied by WW2 documentary footage and titles explaining what the lyrics of the songs endorsed.

The subsequent discussion was disappointing. Few people who tried to defend "Thompson" did poor job in changing the minds of those outraged by the song. Those brought to express outrage (including Zora Dirnbach, author whose family was murdered in Jasenovac) could hardly change the minds of "Thompson's" fans. Those fans scored major victory by expressing support for "Thompson" in phone poll with 57 % calls in favour and 43 % against "Thompson".

Despite those results, it is very unlikely that "Thompson" would have as much exposure on Croatian state television and other "regular" media as he had in previous few years.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Bye Bye BBC?

If this goes through, than Iraq War is going to be remembered as one of the darkest and most infamous chapters in British history. The infamy would come not from the war itself or the diplomatic/intelligence shenanigans before it, but because it was used for the destruction of the institution many on this side of Channel consider to be the best British institution in 20th Century.

Of all the best television programmes overwhelming majority from BBC. And now all this is going to come to an end because one British prime minister has his ego hurt.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Bad Bicentennials

I have impression that July 4th 1976 was the bleakest Independence Day in American history. Oil crisis, Vietnam, Watergate, poor economy, general disillusionment and Cold War that seemed to go Soviet way – all that gave impression of USA not having much of a future.

That future proved to be much brighter than expected, but historians would have few reasons to believe that bleakness of American Bicentennial was nothing more than accidental set of circumstances.

Some more recent examples show that 200 years is the most traumatic and dangerous period age for independent nation.

Haiti is just celebrating 200th anniversary of independence by emerging civil war which is not likely to be ended either by outside force or Haitians themselves.

Serbia is also celebrating 200th anniversary of independence. That requires a lot of creative interpretations of 19th Century history – it took 74 years between February1804 uprising against few local Ottoman warlords and Serbia being recognised as independent state – but Croatia's eastern neighbour also fits the pattern. Serbia is in the middle of political crisis that could sink that country even deeper than Milošević (Milosevic) did. In the same its democratic forces and government (or what goes for government) make Weimar Germany look stable and competent in comparison.

I can only imagine what horrors await Latin America and Belgium in few decades. What could become of Croatia in 2191 I dare not to contemplate.

Valentines Day Blow Out

Valentines Day 2004 in Split is going to be remembered for reasons that don't have much to do with romance. Jugoplastika, once the pride of Split industry, was going to end its existence today.

Jugoplastika began as clothes/apparel factory in 1950s. It used to produce great variety of products from plastic and other synthetic materials produced in Jugovinil, another socialist-era giant in nearby Kaštela (Kastela). Both factories were part of Tito era industrialisation and also served to bring rural (and in Communist eyes "backward and reactionary") masses from Dalmatian hinterland and Bosnia to be re-educated by living in urban, class-conscious and "red" Split. The plan backfired –instead of becoming urbanised, those rural masses only managed to destroy urban identity of Split through the years. In the meantime, everyone – urban or rural – enjoyed good living because of Jugosplastika. The company had tens of thousands of workers on their payroll and sponsored Split's legenadary basketball team from Split. Toni Kukoč (Toni Kukoc) and Dino Rajda – two NBA giants – began their careers in Jugoplastika Split.

The end of Communism, war and the loss of former Yugoslav markets brought slow but inevitable demise of Jugoplastika. The company, which had changed name into Diokom in order to satisfy Croatian nationalist sentiments, vanished bit by bit (and today exists only as miniature shoe factory). In the process of its decomposition its left factory halls and offices were left to rot on the very boundary of residential and industrial zones.

With jobs, especially manufacturing jobs, gone and with Split under enormous demographic pressure, this area, known as Brodarica, was bound to be re-zoned into residential area. In the past couple of weeks series of controlled explosions were demolishing buildings, paving the way for future housing project.

According to some rumours I have heard, today's explosion wasn't as successful as previous ones. One of the walls was left standing.

Friday, February 13, 2004

[ADMINISTRATIVE] Blogroll Changes

Some dead links are removed and some blog entries are updated with new addresses. Vodkapundit is added.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Just When It Started Looking Boring…

It seems that Matt Drudge is on the verge of repeating his greatest scoop.

It is too early to tell whether this is just another vicious rumour or whether John Kerry would join the long list of powerful, unstoppable, invincible men who were ruined by a woman.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Going Native

William Montgomery, US ambassador to Serbia-Montenegro, is one of the most successful and influential American diplomats in recent history. His ambassadorships in Bulgaria, Croatia and Serbia-Montenegro have been associated with regime changes in those respective countries, and Montgomery was rumoured to have his career crowned by prestigious ambassadorship in Moscow.

However, according to Spiegel and Sunday Times, Montgomery spent enough time in Balkans to have his life resemble sad lyrics of local "turbo folk" songs – stories of all-powerful unstoppable men who were led to their dooms by fatal women.

Femme fatale in this case was Biljana Jović (Biljana Jovic), ambassador's secretary, who had made a fatal mistake of answering call to ambassador's private cell phone. The call was made by Mrs. Lynne Montgomery who was returning from Montgomerys' summer house in Cavtat, Croatia. After realising that Ms. Jović is on the other line Mrs. Montgomery rushed to the Embassy building in Belgrade and assaulted her husband's secretary. What followed was fight in which Ambassador unsuccessfully tried to set two women apart. The incident ended with intervention of Marines.

While all official sources deny any stories about incident, Montgomery's career is over. Nine months before the end of his tenure, he was sent to retirement by his State Department superiors.

UPDATE: New York Daily News link is here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Dark Horse

Time has come for me to make one bold prediction in this blog.

If Return of the King by some chance loses this year's Oscar, the most likely object of hatred for Tolkien fans is going to be Seabiscuit.

Lost in Translation is too "artsy", Mystic River is too depressive (and Eastwood has already won for Unforgiven), while Master and Commander is too boring even for the average Academy member.

I'm certain that anti-Tolkien vote is going to be concentrated on the uplifting family-oriented true story that praises American values.

Monday, February 09, 2004

One Month Later

Most of Croatian retail companies are reporting around 30-40 % less profit in January compared with December. These are the results of the law that banned shops from being open on Sundays. Many of big supermarket chains are announcing massive layoffs in very near future. According to their spokespeople, the only reason layoffs haven't occurred yet is management's hope of Sabor changing the law and allowing shops to be open on Sundays.

I hope that Church, whose officials pressed so hard for the Sunday shopping ban, will offer families of the newly unemployed something more than spiritual comfort.

Soccer Violence Continues

In the past few months every relevant factor in Croatia – police, media, government and sports officials – tried very hard or at least tried very hard to give impression trying hard in their efforts to defuse the tensions created by infamous Dugopolje incident. The bitter rivalry between Dinamo Zagreb and Hajduk Split, however, again expressed itself in the most virulent form, this time on the territory of neighbouring Bosnia-Herzegovina. The tournament in Široki Brijeg, named after Gojko Šušak (Gojko Susak), Tudjman's all-powerful defence minister and town's favourite son, had its final game on Sunday. The game was abandoned after few dodgy decisions and fan violence within and outside stadium.

Local police, in most likelihood, probably underestimated risks of having huge numbers of Dinamo Zagreb and Hajduk Split fans at the same spot in the same time. The violent manifestation of decades-long feud caught Western Herzegovina police by surprise. Something like that could have never happened in Croatia proper, because authorities had too much of a bitter experiences in past decade or so.

There are unconfirmed reports that the incident also involved sporadic gunfire. I hope that those reports are false. And if they are true, I hope that the shooting came from police desperately trying to calm things down. Potential consequences of BBB and Torcida using firearms on each other are too dark to contemplate.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Express History

I've watched DC 9/11: Time of Crisis, one of the most talked about American TV films in recent memory. I looked forward to something extraordinary and I wasn't disappointed in the end. The movie was one of the most surreal viewing experiences I had. Watching Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice, Blair – all those people who I can see on CNN every day – being played by professional actors was weird. Some of the characters, including George W. Bush, were more convincing than their real life equivalents. Current US President obviously had more luck with Timothy Bottoms than Tito had with Richard Burton.

Another fascinating thing about this film is the way in which it compressed lifetime of important historical events into coherent two hours. American TV films usually don't succeed in doing that. This film would probably serve as a very useful learning tool for history students in the future.

Of course, some would complain about George W. Bush receiving hagiographic treatment (which is hardly surprising, considering the film being made by Bush supporters and being backed by White House) and not being completely honest or fair. I didn't get that impression. The authors simply picked the historical event and situations that would present Bush in the best possible light.

In doing so they weren't very different from Ted Turner and the way he had picked only the most glorious victories of Southern arms in Gods and Generals.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Day of Fog and Old Memories

Today Split was covered by one of thickest fogs in living memory. The visibility on the streets improved shortly before noon.

This day, however, I will remember for more personal and sadder reason. Vjekoslava Tocigl, my elementary school teacher, passed away yesterday. I read the notice too late to attend her funeral today.

I honestly can't remember when I saw Mrs. Tocigl for the last time, but I know it was long time ago. I'll always remember her as nice old lady who tried very hard to get me and my classmates on the right path and make the opening stages of our education as much fun as possible. What I know of my classmates' latter lives and careers and what memories I do have tell me that she did wonderful job.

Cold Mountains and Sore Losers

Harvey Weinstein is apparently unaccustomed to "Oscar" snubs or, at least, doesn't appear to take them very lightly. When his latest baby Cold Mountain got ignored by Academy it had to do with some kind of conspiracy. According to Weinstein, Cold Mountain was punished for the unforgivable sin of being American Civil War movie shot outside sacred American soil.

This is interesting theory that would undoubtedly get Weinstein some sympathy outside USA, among people who view evil Hollywood as the tool of American imperialism and chauvinism. I, of course, don't think that there was any kind of conspiracy. I don't know if anyone, for example, complained about Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, one of the best movies about American Civil War, being shot on Spanish locations.

More likely explanation could be found in Weinstein's past successes. Cold Mountain simply fell victim to the backlash created by years of Weinstein's PR machine becoming increasingly ruthless in its attempts to win "Oscars". Many in Hollywood began to feel uncomfortable with the campaigns that resembled dirtiest political contests and got even more uncomfortable with movies like English Patient or Shakespeare in Love perhaps getting not particularly deserved "Oscars".

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Bosnian Television Boom?

It seems that movie and television industry in at least one republic of former Yugoslavia is catching on modern media trends. At least this is the impression given by projects launched in past years that were unimaginable only few years ago.

Bosnian FTV television, together with still unknown Serbian company, is going to produce so far the most ambitious TV show after the collapse of former Yugoslavia. Crna hronika is the name of crime drama which is going to have at least 220 episodes. The cast would include some notable names from neighbouring countries – Ivo Gregurević (Ivo Gregurevic) of Croatia and Dragan Bjelogrlić (Dragan Bjelogrlic) and Ljubiša Samardžić (Ljubisa Samardzic). First episode is scheduled to be aired on FTV on September 27th.

This isn't first such project by FTV. Viza za budućnost (Viza za buducnost) is Bosnian soap opera which airs on FTV and also includes cast from neighbouring countries.

Recently ended Story Supernova Music Talents show was also aired across borders of Croatia (with Croatian viewers being able to watch Bosnian version in return), and there were talks about Croatian Nova TV, Slovenian Pop TV and Bosnian OBN jointly creating their own soap opera. Other speculations talk about Serbian Pink TV or BK becoming involved too.

Dinaric Boys Can Jump

I couldn't fail to notice interesting discussion at Gene Expression about national make-up of NBA foreign players. Dinaric regions of former Yugoslavia are, of course, mentioned as the source of many basketball talents.

More About Superbowl

Although I still think that a single nipple didn't really deserve such brouhaha (and sadly, this stunt would only give undeserved publicity to people responsible for it), I also sympathise with NFL officials and players whose Superbowl is going forever to be associated with this incident. I can sympathise because I had similar experiences.

Some years ago I used to write articles for certain magazine. This magazine, among other things, published huge posters of two men doing certain things to each other I prefer not to describe. It also published photo of certain performance artist using a cow as part of his act in a way I also prefer not to describe. (And when some brave soul in that magazine's editorial board suggested that naked woman be featured on front page, he was lambasted for being sexist pig.)

To say that I didn't like my articles appearing only few pages away from such content would be an understatement.

Lately, I've been commenting "Oscars" and other news for the movie-related show on local television. The show, among other things, regularly includes brief clips of (softcore) lesbian sex. I guess that this represents something of an improvement compared with the unpleasant situation described above.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

[ADMINISTRATIVE] Blogroll Addition

The 6th International is added to my blogroll.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Horrible End

"Horrible end is better than horrors without end". This motto is apparently adopted by at least some segments of Serbian reformist bloc. Tired of political deadlock and fact that Serbia lacks legitimate government, left-centre reformist party of G-17 Plus has made the deal with the devil – SPS (Socialist Party of Serbia), party of chief Balkan troublemaker Slobodan Milošević (Slobodan Milosevic). Followers of Milošević are supposed to stop their obstruction and allow G-17 Plus or some other reformist candidate to become new speaker of Serbian Parliament. What would SPS ask in exchange is not yet known, but this precedent makes eventual coalition between Koštunica's (Kostunica's) moderate nationalists in DSS and radical nationalists of SRS more likely than before.

Superbowl "Incident"

I watched bits and pieces of last night's Superbowl and apparently missed the highlight of the whole show. What I saw on the Web afterwards didn't leave much impression on me. I live on the continent where such things were never big deal and the outrage in USA only shows how, despite all the talk about globalisation or belonging to the same Western civilisation, America and Europe enormously differ in culture.

On the other hand, I understand why NFL is so enraged. The talk about "incident" is going to drown any publicity related to the Superbowl itself. For each discussion talking about Panthers and Patriots there would be ten discussions about Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake and "standards of decency".

Sunday, February 01, 2004

[ADMINISTRATIVE] Experimental Feed

I installed Atom feed to this blog, available by linking to "Site Feed". It is still in experimental phase, so if you have any suggestions, you can E-mail me.

Carla's Capitulation

Carla del Ponte, chief ICTY prosecutor, gave exclusive interview to Croatian state television in which she all but capitulated to the demands of the very people whose arch-nemesis in Croatia she had always been. She claims that there would only "few new war crimes indictments against Croatian citizens", that most of war crimes trials would be left to Croatian (in other words, more lenient) courts and that she would "most enthusiastically" lobby for quick Croatian entry to EU. The most important news is del Ponte's call for General Ante Gotovina to surrender; in exchange he would be allowed to defend himself at large. Since General evaded capture and made mockery out of ICTY and del Ponte's authority for years, this is nothing short of del Ponte's admission of humiliating defeat.

There are two reasons for del Ponte's change of policy. First is political pressure from USA and various other European countries. ICTY, which was always more of a political pressure tool rather than instrument of justice, is widely perceived of having outlived its purpose. Most of Balkan troublemakers are either in jail, turned into pathetic fugitives or conveniently dead. War on Terror brought new foreign policy priorities and recent past of Balkans, regardless of its bloodshed, is perceived as being past. All current regional problems are swept under the carpet. Finally, even people on the ground generally give impression of being still too tired of war and preferring rebuilding economy to settling old scores.

The most important reason for Carla del Ponte's defeat is, of course, her policies being counterproductive and sometimes having disastrous consequences. Although her treatment of Croatia was in gloves compared to the hammering she had given to Serbia, it was often perceived as unjustified meddling into country's internal affairs, national humiliation and few years ago brought country to the verge of armed insurrection and in many ways contributed to the collapse of Račan's (Racan's) coalition government and its replacement with Tudjman's nationalists. In Serbia consequences were even worse – assassination of prime minister, still unsolved political crisis and rise of nationalists who, unlike current rulers of Croatians, don't even pretend to be reformed.

ICTY failed even to bring closure in some very simple cases. Milan Babić (Milan Babic), former Knin dentist and "Krajina" Serb leader, has recently pleaded guilty to war crimes charges and in exchange received lighter sentence. He publicly expressed apology for his actions and called "Croatians to forgive and allowed two peoples to live in peace and move on". Following that apology, there was very little gloating in Croatian media. Many people doubted Babić's sincerity, since he had been known both as ICTY star witness against Milošević (Milosevic) and one of the most embittered critics of Serbian President. Like many other former "Krajina" officials, Babić never forgave Serbian leadership for letting them down during Operation Storm. In Croatia his apology is seen as being motivated more with desire to spend less time behind bars and vindictiveness than with some kind of remorse. In the same time, many Croatians are embittered over Croatian generals like Blaškić (Blaskic) and Norac having to spend more time in jail that Babić.

The End of "Thompson"?

Last week Catholic Church officials in Croatia have publicly distanced themselves from controversial "turbo folk" singer Marko Perković "Thompson" (Marko Perkovic "Thompson") by saying that the lyrics of "Jasenovac and Gradiška Stara" (Jasenovac i Gradiska Stara) – song explicitly praising genocide of Serbs in Croatia during WW2 – aren't compatible with Catholic teaching. That followed flood of condemnations by public figures in Croatia, many associated with right-wing politics or having expressed understanding or sympathy for "Thompson" in the past. There are calls for actions more explicit than the famous Internet petition that had asked "Croatia Records" record label to drop "Thompson" – some argue that the singer should be prosecuted for enticing racial hatred.

Is this the end of "Thompson"?

Probably not. His following among young and expatriate Croatians is too strong, his songs (among other things, due to the controversy) can top music charts and he is still able to fill concert halls all over the country (and in those neighbouring countries that don't have anti-Nazi legislation similar to Netherlands).

But he is probably not going to enjoy royal treatment by Croatian "regular" media and have pop concerts with stadium-filling crowds airing live on national television. There would be none of the "serious" music critics, politicians and media personalities trying to paint him as "innocent and honest" Croatian patriot. Politicians, reporters, judges, fellow pop stars and other establishment figures are going to stay clear of his concerts.