Friday, July 30, 2004

In vino veritas?

Boris Dvornik added new twist to the story about his reconciliation and upcoming reunion with Velimir "Bata" Živojinović (Velimir "Bata" Zivojinovic). In an interview for today's Slobodna Dalmacija he claims that no reconciliation took place. "Everything I had to say to Bata I had said 15 years ago", he said. He stated that it is possible that he had talked with Bata over the phone, but that he was "under influence of alcohol" under the time. Dvornik claims that his love for Croatia and respect for President Tudjman bars him from becoming friend with "Bata" ever again. followed Dvornik's change of mind with great scepticism, noting that Dvornik's previous statements about reconciliation appeared in Večernji list, daily newspaper not known for creative interpretation of facts.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

War Criminals and Heroes

Tihomir Blaškić (Tihomir Blaskic) spent around eight years behind bars. This is more than most murderers, pedophiles, drug dealers and rapists get in Croatian courts. But this was apparently eight years too much for 99 % of Croatian public who view Blaškić as hero and martyr and who celebrate spectacular reduction of his prison sentence (from 45 to 9 years) as a Croatian triumph.

Minor details, like the fact that Blaškić is still guilty of war crimes and that his sentence was only reduced and not overturned, don't seem to bother Croatians much.

People in Croat sections of Bosnia celebrate and there are many smiling faces in Croatia today. Everyone – average Joes on the streets and serious political commentators alike – talk about Blaškić being "innocent". Some even speculate about this sentence being used for further Croatian triumphs, including getting General Gotovina off the hook.

However, at least technically, Blaškić is still a war criminal. And this decision won't erase what had happened in Ahmići (Ahmici) in 1993.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Going For The Opinion

Even those resistant to Yugo-nostalgia tend to agree that the former federation used to be much more relaxed place compared to Eastern Bloc. But, it was Communist country nevertheless and some lines were not supposed to be crossed. However, many times officials didn't have specifically clear understanding where that line was. Sometimes they didn't know whether to promote employee who attended Mass every Sunday or not. Sometimes few lines in newspaper article about sorry state of local power grid could have been too annoying to local Party bosses. Or a negative or positive review of certain historically-themed play could have been too damaging to delicate framework of Yugoslav "Brotherhood and Unity".

When in doubt, editors, state company managers and other officials had the way of finding the right answers. They would go to the nearest local Party Committee, present their problem and later get official Party opinion. Phrase "going to Committee for the opinion" entered Yugoslav vocabularies and in the latter stages became widely used to describe unimaginative, servile and spineless people.

With the end of Yugoslavia this phrase disappeared from vocabularies, but not the mentality that had inspired it.

Actually, this mentality exists even today and in the highest ranks of government, at least judging by Bechtel affair.

Like Tudjman's and Račan's (Racan's) government before him, Sanader used services of Bechtel, American construction company to finish monumental project of connecting various cities of Croatia through comprehensive system of modern highways. Until recently there was little fuss about Bechtel operating in Croatia and receiving lucrative contracts.

But the war in Iraq, just like in many other cases, changed all that. When public learned about construction of Dugopolje – Šestanovac (Sestanovac) section of Dalmatina Motorway being given to Bechtel without legal tender, Croatian political scene was suddenly reawakened from its summer siesta. Former and current officials started accusing each other of corruption, while most of Croatian media, firmly on anti-USA bandwagon speculated about highway contract being some sort of compensation for Croatia not sending troops to Iraq.

Sanader reacted to this fuss by throwing few phrases about "Communist mentality" of his accusers and than did something old Yugoslav Communists used to do. He tried to clear the deal by presenting all the facts to European Commission and asking for its opinion.

So, in all those years some things didn't change. In old days they used to go to Committee for the opinion. These days they go to Commission for the opinion.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Rail Trouble

Today was a great day for Croatian Railways. New (and until recently very controversial) "slope" trains have started carrying cargo and passenger on a track between Split and Zagreb, shortening that journey to tolerable six hours. In Autumn, after additional works on the rail tracks in Lika, the journey should be even shorter.

In the meantime, first day of "slope" trains almost ended in complete disaster. Second train to depart from Zagreb station has collided with huge piece of iron deliberately left on the track. Police acted very quickly and apprehended two suspects from Zagreb. According to first reports, the motive for their action is not terrorism. Apparently angry over being tossed out of train for disturbance, two young men – 17-year old inmate of Zagreb reform school and his 24-year old friend – decided to take their revenge in most spectacular way possible.

I'm convinced that recent and widely publicised train derailment in Turkey gave inspiration for their criminal plan.

Thankfully, although one of the trains got damaged, no injuries were reported. This disturbing incident, like so many other in the past, is most likely to be played down by Croatian media in the middle of tourist season.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Restart of Beautiful Friendship

Boris Dvornik and Velimir "Bata" Živojinović (Velimir "Bata" Zivojinovic) used to be among the top four movie stars of former Yugoslavia. Their prolific careers (especially in case of Živojinović, who had more than 100 roles to his credit) often meant that two of them would appear together. During those shoots, especially in case of prestigious WW2 spectacles like Neretva and Sutjeska,  two of them developed close friendship.

This beautiful friendship endured for many years, but it couldn't late 1980s and early 1990s. Just like many people in those times, Dvornik suddenly remembered that he was Croat and Živojinović remembered that he was Serb. This realisation was followed by very public and very spectacular renunciation of their friendship. They made public appeals to each other, called each other all kinds of names, promised that their friendship was over and asked all their countrymen to follow their example. Both actors used their respective charismas to enter politics and earn parliamentary seats as loyal supporters of ruling nationalist regimes – Živojinović as representative of Milošević's (Milosevic's) SPS and Dvornik as representative of Tudjman's HDZ.

In the next couple years many of those who had listened to Dvornik and "Bata" lost their lives, health and property. This war, like all wars, came to an end and former enemies were forced not only to heal their wounds but also to rebuild burned bridges.

Even people like Dvornik and "Bata" couldn't escape this process. Few days ago Croatian media was full of stories about their tearful reunion and promise that they would be friends again. "Bata" made few statements trying to explain some of his most inflammatory remarks from the past as "a result of manipulation".

It is really touching to see old friends reunite. Restart of their friendship, unfortunately, won't be as spectacular as its tragic. This is mostly due to bad timing. This event is overshadowed by more spectacular (although, in practical terms, less meaningful) reopening of the Old Bridge in Mostar. Unlike the Mostar ceremony, which was nothing more than self-congratulatory gesture of international bureaucrats, reunion of "Bata" and Dvornik really means that people of former Yugoslavia are in the process of leaving their violent past behind.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

[ADMINISTRATIVE] Croatian Blogroll Addition

Two blogs added - Dalibor and my own.

RIP Jerry Goldsmith (1929 – 2004)

In 1981 JRT, consortium of Yugoslav state televisions, produced Stvaranje socijalističke Jugoslavije, documentary series made for the 40th anniversary of National Liberation Struggle – term which was in those times used for Yugoslav participation in WW2. In the final episodes, footage of victorius Partisans liberating Yugoslav towns was accompanied with Main Theme from Jerry Goldsmith's soundtrack for Star Wars: The Motion Picture.
There are probably better ways to show how marvellous Jerry Goldsmith was, but in this particular moment I can't think of anything else.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Things That Go Boom

Croatia experienced some sort of crime wave in past few days. Near Bjelovar two young boys were attacked and savagely mutilated by unknown assailant. In one of the more posh sections of Zagreb former Tudjman's physician got robbed at gunpoint in his very house.
But city of Split is more entertained with the incident in local marina. 39-year old police diver was seriously injured while defusing explosive device. The device itself had been defused but detonator exploded afterwards painting the sea red and convincing the onlookers – who had expected to see police divers dig out ancient amphoras – that something terribly wrong had happened.
The most interesting thing about this story is the way different media had interpreted it. Nobody dared to use headlines like EXPLOSIVE DEVICE IN SPLIT MARINA! in the middle of tourist season. Major television stations, of course, told the story about mines being legacy of WW2. Slobodna Dalmacija, on the other hand, printed more disturbing version about explosive device being anti-tank mine. This mine was apparently dumped some time in 1990s. Following the takeover of former Federal military facilities, hardware like this ended in hands of private citizens and became popular negotiating tool for more enterprising Split businessmen in that era.
Of course, in this day and age, and with Croatian Army platoon being stationed in Kabul, this story is going to get even more disturbing.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Summer Hiatus

I'm just stating the obvious.
This is not the best season for blogging. I'll try to increase the frequency of my posts.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Different Definitions

While Croatian judiciary apparently considers 11 Minutes That Shook The World as the art worthy of copyright protection, other forms of expressions aren't greeted with same amount of enthusiasm.
Few days ago Split witnessed spectacular opening of Moulin Rouge, strip joint that used to be known as American Go Go Club. But the opening was marred by labour inspection raid. As a result, 8 exotic dancers – Slovakian citizens - were brought towards magistrate because they lacked work permit. They tried to defend themselves by claiming that they were artists and, as such, didn't recquire work permits. But magistrate apparently didn't consider "exotic dance" to be art and had all eight of them fined and deported from Croatia.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Better Times

Today I glimpsed little bits of John Doe. This series was cancelled, but it is probably going to be very popular in Croatia. At least judging by the first episode where the protagonist referenced Croatia without any mention of 1990s unpleasantness. The line of dialogue mentioned Zagreb stock exchanges, kunas, Požeska Banka (Pozeska Banka), bauxite on Adriatic coast and aluminium prices. It is delight to watch someone in Hollywood script workshops getting things right for a change.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Work of Art

The latest twist in Severina Affair happened today when Croatian High Commerce Court declared infamous Severina Vučković's (Severina Vuckovic's) sex video to be "work of art" and, as such, subject to copyright protection. This declaration is a victory for Severina's lawyer Anto Nobilo who needed this condition for criminal complaint against Matija Babić (Matija Babic), editor of side. Babić has broken the story and illustrated it with couple of still photos from the video. For Nobilo this is reason enough for Babić to be criminally prosecuted.

This might be victory for Severina and Nobilo, but it is mostly symbolic. Even if Babić gets tried for copyright violation and his news site becomes extinguished as a result, this wouldn't bring the genie back to bottle. The only motivation behind Severina's legal actions is vendetta and Nobilo's desperate attempt to restore his image of Croatia's top lawyer.

More interesting thing in this whole affair is the way Croatia's judiciary has redefined "art" in order to rule in favour of Croatian "national treasure" (as Severina was referenced by her colleague Nikolina "Nikita" Ivošević in one of the talk shows).

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Better Than Superbowl

This is hardly surprising. Not only because soccer is more popular than all major US sports combined. Soccer games between national teams can at times have dimension and importance that which major US competitions lack. For example, in order to motivate his team in the crucial match against Germany, a Dutch player made speech about suffering their country endured during WW2 occupation (and got lambasted for not being politically correct nor good European afterwards). You couldn't find that extra importance in Superbowl, Stanley Cup or World Series.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Kutle Going Down

Anto Nobilo, biggest celebrity among the ranks of Croatian lawyers, is having bad times. Not that long after having his criminal complaint in Severina Affair – directed against Matija Babić (Matija Babic) and other journalists who broke the news about Severina Vučković (Severina Vuckovic) sex video – rejected by Croatian authorities, Nobilo has just lost another high profile case.

Miroslav Kutle, one of the richest businessmen of 1990s Croatia, has been sentenced to six and half years in prison for "abuse of economic position" in privatisation of Tisak, Croatia's newspaper distribution company. Tisak is just one of many Croatian firms that became Kutle's in 1990s, often under rather fishy set of circumstances. Most notorious case – privatisation of Split daily newspaper Slobodna Dalmacija – show that many such privatisations occurred under the protection of Tudjman's regime. Once critical towards government and immensely successful, Split daily became mouthpiece of Croatian rabid right-wingers and financial wreck. This happened to most of firms taken over by Kutle during 1990s privatisations – once successful companies were struck by mass layoffs, financial ruin and bankruptcies with tens of thousands of people losing their jobs and entire communities being thrown into poverty.

Kutle was in many ways symbol of everything that was wrong with Croatian post-Communist privatisation. As such, he was among the most despised persons of Croatia. Račan's (Racan's) government brought him to trial almost immediately after seizing power, but court's apparent inability to finish proceeding was in many ways symptomatic of Račan's inability to fulfil his election promises. Just like in many other cases, Sanader was one to deliver what Račan and his government had promised.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

The Age Without Imagination

Many who heard about the reason for Jack Ryan's dropping out of US Senate race can't cease to wonder about one thing. That man was able to do what many male fans of Star Trek: Voyager could only dream about. But that, apparently, wasn't enough for Jack Ryan. He had to share it with the rest of the world in the most graphic world possible and that wish, although unfulfilled, ultimately led to his downfall.

Jack Ryan is, actually, only the first one of many powerful and successful men who is going to experience similar fate or, at least, same kind of trouble.

Development of modern information technology and ability of modern media to satisfy even the most bizarre and the most depraved forms of human curiosity has left nothing to imagination.

John Ford's 1956 classic western The Searchers features the scene during which Ethan, character played by John Wayne, tries to explain what happened to some white women who had been taken as captives during Comanche raid. When finally confronted, he bursts out:

What do you want me to do? Draw you a picture? Spell it out? Don't ever ask me! Long as you live, don't ever ask me more.

In today's world Ethan couldn't enjoy this luxury. Today's media has learned new generations that they shouldn't use imagination. If there is everything someone wants to know, it must be followed by an image, whether this image consists of beheadings or fellatios.

In this world Jack Ryans are becoming aware that simply being married or in committed relationship with beautiful woman isn't enough to retain their Alpha Male status. The great unwashed masses are going to start demanding proof that their idols are able to enjoy their privileges.

Brouhahas created by Paris Hilton tapes and Severina Affair are only a sign of things to come. In the near future it would be impossible for a rock star or pop princess not to release sex videos.

Beauty Beats Beast

Unlike Roland Gaross, which was often seen as freak incident, this year's Wimbledon ushered a new era of women's tennis. Domination of Williams sisters is definitely over and new empress is going to reigns over the world's tennis courts.

And this is exactly what has been promised by media machine that had been promoting Kournikova through all those years.

Friday, July 02, 2004

[ADMINISTRATIVE] New Blogroll Additions

Periscope, Euro Blog Review and Fainting in Coyles added to blogroll.

RIP Marlon Brando (1924 – 2004)

Perhaps he wasn't the greatest actor of all times, but A Stretcar Named Desire, Godfather and Last Tango in Paris show that he was at least close to it.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Rivals No More

Rivalry between Paola Poljak, Nova TV's weathergirl, and Renata Sopek, her colleague from RTL Televizija and "sexiest woman of Croatia", has ended. Paola Poljak has left Nova TV and joined RTL Televizija where she would run Exclusiv, celebrity gossip show.

In her statement to TV Story magazine, Poljak says that she likes the new show because she doesn't have to wear "uniforms" like she did in Nova TV's weather forecasts. Her new style is supposed to be more "casual but decent". Compared with clothes Sopek wears during her forecasts, "decency" won't be that hard to achieve.

Another June 30th Fiasco

Day before yesterday Carla del Ponte, chief ICTY prosecutor, announced that she expects Radovan Karadžić (Radovan Karadzic) to be in ICTY custody by "the end of the month". When reminded that the month ends next day, she just smiled and confirmed that she expected good news.

But the good news didn't materialise. Some 60 top Bosnian Serb officials, accused or suspected of helping Karadžić avoid justice or not simply not eager enough in their co-operation with ICTY, were sacked by Paddy Ashdown, Bosnia's international administrator.

On the very same day five people in neighbouring Croatia also received bad news related to Hague. They were banned from entering EU because their role in helping Croatian general Ante Gotovina to evade arrest. Those individuals included controversial General Ljubo Ćesić-Rojs (Ljubo Cesic-Rojs), controversial businessman Hrvoje Petrač (Hrvoje Petrac) and Željko Bagić (Zeljko Bagic), former advisor to Croatian president Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic).

While those five won't go to Europe, one Croatian will. Mirko Norac is scheduled to appear on July 8th in Hague and answer to charges related to 1993 massacre in Medak Pocket. Not so long ago some 200,000 people flooded streets of Split and many others blocked strategic roads only to prevent that from happening.