Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Femme Fatale of Croatian Soccer?

One of the saddest thing about Athens Olympics was the ending. Monday after the Games was a sad day for any true sport fan in Croatia. All of those who appreciate sport have to reconcile with the new prosaic reality in which things like track and field, swimming, cycling, archery, tennis and handball etc. don't exist for average Croatian and most of Croatian media establishment. Instead, the newspaper headlines are going to be exclusively dedicated to soccer or, to be more precise, Croatian soccer league.

And this is really sad, because even the most partisan fans are today ready to admit that Croatian soccer is in decline. The only thing remotely interesting is the eternal rivalry between Hajduk Split and Dinamo Zagreb. Long time ago that rivalry has transcended the pitch and the League itself. The eternal feud between two soccer fan groups became more interesting than the matches, especially today when both teams are struggling to avoid humiliating defeats at the hands of third class opponents.

Media attention has instead shifted towards Torcida and Bad Blue Boys and their gradual escalation of violence. But recently violent impulses within the two groups found new targets – installations, officials and even the players of the clubs such fans were supposed to support. Hajduk was first to experience such phenomenon – training sessions were interrupted and its top officials and managers eventually forced to resign. Dinamo fans took their cue from Torcida and escalated it even further. Following the disappointing match between Inter Zaprešić (Inter Zapresic), couple of top Dinamo players were assaulted by fans, which resulted in injuries.

Some unconfirmed reports tell about BBB plans to sabotage World Cup qualification game between Croatian and Hungarian national team.

Jutarnji list, on the other hand, identifies the source of Dinamo troubles in the form of a woman. According to Zagreb daily, three Dinamo players are romantically involved with the same woman, who is rumoured to be RTL Televizija host. Allegedly she is the reason why those three players can't concentrate on the game and why Zagreb club had such miserable start of the season.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Olympian Generosity

4 out 5 medals for Croatia at 2004 Olympics were won by Split athletes. City of Split decided to mark this triumph by spectacular homecoming ceremony that should include local singers and pop bands. One name among the entertainers stood out – Severina Vučković (Severina Vuckovic). According to some still unconfirmed reports, Severina is supposed to use this ceremony for her first public performance since 11 Minutes That Shook The World.

Same sources tell that the athletes insisted on Severina being the part of the public festivities. If this story is true, athletes should be commended for their modesty and generosity. Seldom you see people willing to share the moment of their greatest personal triumph with someone more famous than they could ever hope to be.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Another Gunfire in Split

Blanka Vlašić (Blanka Vlasic), favourite daughter of Split, is going to return to her native town without Olympic medal. Flu proved to be too much of a hurdle, as well as intense pressure by media who, despite her health problems, already saw her on the pedestal and considered any other result as national treason. Blanka, deprived of her Olympic glory, is going to return the town where it doesn't take much for idolatry to be replaced with ridicule and smear campaigns. Inevitably, certain malicious rumours already attribute Blanka's health problems to a rowdy night in one of Split's cafes.

On the other hand, Blanka can comfort herself that the Croatian public, as well as her fellow citizens of Split, would soon forget her Olympic fiasco. Croatian handball team has just beaten Germany, won an Olympic gold and caused citizens of Split to express their joy by firing guns in the air.

Friday, August 27, 2004

BBC and WW2 Croatia

I checked BBC coverage of Budak monument removal and noticed that even such reputable news source can get some facts very wrong.

First of all, Pavelić's (Pavelic's) state didn't comprise "most of Western Serbia". The only exception is Srijem (Srem), part of today's Serbian autonomous province of Vojvodina.

Second, Pavelić's state was never supposed to be "a Catholic, all-Croat republic". Concept of "republic" was too liberal and too alien to Ustashas. Independent State of Croatia was nominally a monarchy and the crown was supposed to go to Italian Duke of Spoleto, as a reward for Mussolini's pre-WW2 support of Ustashas.

Brave and Wimpish HDZ

Whether right or wrong, whether pandering to Europeans and Israel or genuine expression of anti-Fascism, decision to pull down Budak monument is one brave move by Sanader's government.

Sanader is going to be lauded (at least publicly) by overwhelming majority of Croatian political and media establishment, while the resentment among Croatian far right (and many rank-and-file members of HDZ) would continue to grow. New hate speech legislation and ideas about giving the same treatment to Tito's memorial are going to fuel political passions and broaden WW2-era divisions among Croatian people. HDZ is going to be hit hard on the next local elections while many right-wing Croatians hate Sanader more than "Yugocommunist traitors" Mesić (Mesic) and Račan (Racan).

At the same time, Sanader's party is showing less bravery when it comes to issues not related to outside image of Croatia. In the latest interwiew to Jutarnji list, Vladimir Šeks (Vladimir Seks), Sabor speaker, confirmed that his party considers not running its candidate on the next presidential elections. "The defeat of HDZ candidate could have serious political consequences for the government, prime minister, local elections", Šeks said in the interview. In other words, HDZ is scared that the defeat on presidential elections could shatter myth of HDZ invicibility and with it Sanader's authority – the only thing that keeps current various parties and HDZ factions together.

Šeks later denied that he stated that HDZ gives up its presidential bid. But Jutarnji list stood by its story.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Croatian Olympic Scandal

According to Jutarnji list, Croatia got its first Olympic scandal. President Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic) and prime minister Ivo Sanader floated the possibility of attending the Athens games in order to cheer Croatian handball team in the finals. Croatia getting into the finals doesn't seem to be much of a problem, judging by the superb result of Lino Červar's (Lino Cervar's) juggernaut. But Mesić and Sanader didn't secure tickets on team. Their attempts to get them led Antun Vrdoljak, Croatian member of International Olympic Committee, to say that he would get tickets for Sanader, but not for "the spy".

"The spy" is, of course, Mesić. Vrdoljak, who used to be highly positioned (and most hated) HDZ official during Tudjman's reign, is apparently displeased with the way Mesić testified at Hague Tribunal.

Zlatko Mateša, chairman of International Olympic Committee, used to be Tudjman's prime minister. But his tone was more conciliatory and he promised that he would try to obtain the tickets both for Mesić and Sanader, "even on the black market, if everything else fails".

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Soccer Success Curse

So, Iraqi Olympic fairytale is over. Their soccer team can still fetch a bronze, but the victory against formidable Italians is very unlikely.

Iraqi soccer fans can take some comfort if they compare the results of some national soccer teams with the fate of their countries.

Italy won two consecutive World Cups – 1934 and 1938 – only to come out of World War as the most humiliated former Great Power. Argentina won 1978 World Cup and had this national triumphs replaced with national humiliation at Falklands four years later.

This part of the world also had its share of Soccer Success Curse. Yugoslavia won U21 championship in Chile and ceased to exist one year later. Red Star Belgrade, club known as the embodiment of Serb nationalism, won European Championship Cup only to have many of its fans, including Arkan, killed while fighting for the cause of Greater Serbia.

If we accept this logic, recent US troubles in Iraq could be explained with the surprisingly good results of US national team at 2002 World Cup.

However, it is still unclear how would Soccer Success Curse affect Iraq. Is the success of national team be reflected in military and political disaster for Allawi's government or the insurgents? Or could the defeat at the hands of Paragauay mark the turning point in Najaf crisis?

Monday, August 23, 2004

Monumental Troubles in Croatia

Few months after L'Affair Severina Croatia returned to Page 109 of CNN teletext. This is due to the group of citizens in village of Lovinac who built the monument for their favourite son, causing all kinds of interesting reactions. Top HDZ officials used this as an excellent opportunity to present themselves as born-again European anti-fascists who had reformed and completely changed their tune about some of the more questionable aspects of WW2 in Croatia.

This wasn't the only monument-related controversy in Croatia. In the city of Makarska local veteran organisation was up in arms over the soil, grass and flowers used to decorate monument for fallen soldiers. The soil and flowers were allegedly imported from Banja Luka, city in Republic of Srpska. Veterans lambasted authorities for defiling the monument with "Serbian soil".

Interestingly enough, when Budak used to be around, Banja Luka was supposed to be new capital of Croatian state. History can play bizarre tricks on Balkans nationalisms.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

RIP Stjepan Spajić (Stjepan Spajic) (1952 – 2004)

Stjepan Spajić (Stjepan Spajic), controversial, outspoken and iconic owner of Hrvatski dragovoljac soccer club, has succumbed to heart failure this morning.

Spajić, who had earned a rank of Croatian Army brigadier during the war, was, just like his club, associated with far right of Croatian politics. Many of his statements were problematic, even for those who aren't very fond of "political correctness".

Even more problematic were some of Spajić's business practices and his virtual admission that certain results in Croatian soccer competitions had little do with sport. "I paid the referee only to secure fair game, not to buy him off" is one of Spajić's legendary statements.

On the other hand, even those who didn't like his politics or reputation, liked Spajić's handling of media. His public statements and interviews were always extraordinary. One of his last appearances was together with Ljubo Ćesić-Rojs (Ljubo Cesic-Rojs) in Drugo lice, Nova TV's talk show. The way he explained his stance on many important political, economic and cultural issues made the show's host Petar Vlahov almost fall from the chair out of laughter.

Croatia needs more people like that. He is going to be missed.

Misleading Names

Judging by its name Feminnem, newest Croatian girl band is supposed to be some feminist equivalent of tough, outspoken, controversial "take-no-prisoner" performers.

Their first videoclip tells quite another story. Volim te, mrzim te is just another tasteless and forgettable pop tune, in many ways not so different from those that "immortalised" Saša, Tin and Kedžo (Kedzo).

But the most telling is the videoclip itself. In it Pamela Ramljak, Ivana Marić (Ivana Maric) and Neda Parmać (Neda Parmac) are wearing outfits and using dance moves that wouldn't be out of character for certain entertainment establishments of ill repute.

Natalie Dizdar of Story Supernova Music Talents fame was more fortunate. In the videoclip for her song Ne daj se she is almost unrecognisable and lets her best asset – voice – do all the work. Compared with Feminnem that clip is embodiment of good taste and quality music.

Nobodies and Problematic Somebodies

One of the reasons why people agree to participate in shows like Big Brother is opportunity for nobodies to turn into instant celebrities. But it seems that those in charge of Croatian version of the show have rather liberal definition of "nobody".

It turns out that one of the serious candidates for the show was Lidija Šunjerga (Lidija Sunjerga), woman who is far from being completely unknown to Croatian public. Lidija Šunjerga enjoys reputation of Croatia's best known porn star and she had appeared in Nightmare Stage – controversial talk show by Željko Malnar (Zeljko Malnar).

Šunjerga's dreams of becoming first Croatian winner of the show were shattered following an interview to In the interview she announced that she would start "orgies during the show". This was apparently too much for RTL Televizija whose representatives promptly sent her disqualification notice.

Whether this decision is right or wrong, it brings attention to the first Croatian Big Brother scandal – the one that erupted even before the start of the show. Despite being two years older than Big Brother's 35 year limit, despite her notorious past, Šunjerga managed to pass through RTL Televizija psychological and other checks.

In the latest twist, RTL Televizija explained its decision with the words of psychologist. Šunjerga is denied access to Big Brother because she is "bad mother". She has a 7-months old son, and, according to RTL psychologists, mother should spend "at least nine months" with her child.

Scandal or not, this story is going to increase RTL Televizija ratings.

Dream Evening

It took them four gruelling hours, but they did it. Ivan Ljubičić (Ivan Ljubicic) and Mario Ančić (Mario Ancic) have just beat formidable Indian tandem of Bhupati and Paes and thus won Olympic bronze medal in tennis doubles.

This is second Croatian medal this evening. Duje Draganja, native of Split, has already won silver in 50 m freestyle swimming.

The last victory was marked by few sporadic shots in Split. This is far from the way Split citizens used to celebrate Hajduk triumphs but at least it is a sign that someone in this town can appreciate athletes other than soccer player. Unfortunately, this kind of admiration tends to happen only during Olympics. When the athletes aren't competing or when there isn't any realistic chance of gold medals, things like athletics, swimming, handball and tennis get instantly forgotten.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Protest Worth Supporting

I can't resist expressing my admiration and support for this exercise in American right of free speech. My own aesthetic preferences don't have much do to with it. Simply, when people join military, they are supposed to make sacrifices for their country, protect their fellow citizens etc. Improving sex lives, conforming to unrealistic beauty standards and raising someone's low self-esteem shouldn't be on that list.

However, there is additional reason why I don't like this newest propaganda stunt by US Army. It could give all kinds of funny ideas to various non-US entities, including Croatian government. Especially during election campaigns, when Jadranka Kosor makes all kinds of wonderful promises to Croatian veteran population (to which Sanader later finds convenient excuses not to deliver). According to some statistics, there are between 500,000 and 600,000 Croatian citizens who enjoy official status of "Croatian defenders" – in other words, they have in some way participated in 1991-95 war. Although many dispute that number - President Mesić (Mesic) said that with such manpower Croatia could have finished Serbia off in less than two weeks – it is very certain that some various veteran privileges can be claimed by large number of women. Such taxpayer-financed makeovers could present a huge burden to Croatian state finances. Therefore, I would really like to see USA not giving such harmful example to countries like Croatia.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Sanader's Prohibition

If you drove on Croatian roads last night, risk that you may end that journey in hospital was greater than usual. People all over Croatia used last night as the last opportunity to drink and drive.

Thanks to new draconian road safety legislation brought by Sanader's government few months ago, every Croatian driver caught even with the single drop of alcohol in his or her blood is going to pay between 500 and 1500 HRK fines (68 – 204 €). This measure is going to hit not only those who get habitaualy drunk, but also those people who tend to use vinegar and other alcohol-based ingredients in their otherwise harmless nutrition. "Not a single drop" rule also bothered Catholic Church, but Sanader didn't relent, obviously seeing this tough new law as the perfect opportunity to re-establish his crumbling authority.

Just like almost any other controversial legislation in modern Croatian history, this one caused major debate only after its quiet and uneventful passage in Sabor. All those who were silent during dull parliamentary debates are now screaming bloody murder and, what is even more depressing, have very good arguments on their side.

The legislation followed months-long media campaign in which everyone, including Church, expressed outrage over unacceptably high death tolls on Croatian roads, especially among young drivers. Sanader tried to exploit public perception that Something Must Be Done to curb this everyday massacre and, as usual, chose seemingly the easiest way to do it – new and tougher legislation.

Problem with this legislation is its incompatibility with Croatian tradition and way of life. For centuries, Croatians tend to mark each and every occasion – births, weddings, anniversaries, funerals, sending their boys into military – with alcohol consumption. Bars and restaurants have most of their clientele among the people who drive and tend to have a drink or two. And many fear that the effects on Croatian tourist industry (which yielded bigger profits than expected this summer) are going to be devastating.

The best argument against new law is its unenforceability. Just like the infamous Prohibition in 1920s USA, this legislation is not going to change people's lifestyles. People would still drink and drive and only unfortunate minority is going to get caught doing so. Attempts to enforce this law are going to lead to the even larger number of traffic accidents – many drivers, especially young, are going to speed or try all kinds of dangerous stunts in order to evade traffic police.

Of course, despite the massive media blitz putting the all blame on drunk (and, to a lesser degree, drugged-out) drivers, statistics show that only 7 % of all road fatalities in Croatia could be attributed to road fatalities. Abysmal state of roads, lack of proper traffic signalisation and obvious inability of European-manufactured vehicles to properly handle Croatian road conditions create much more problems. The real way to reduce death toll on Croatian roads is tackling those issues. Some progress have already been made – 50 % less people have died on July compared with last year, mostly thanks to the construction of modern, non-congested motorways.

It is too early to speculate whether the inevitable backlash against this measure is going to hurt Sanader or not. But it is all but certain that some parties and candidates on upcoming presidential and local elections are going to campaign proudly declaring themselves "Wet".

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Sacro Egoismo

There are still many uncertainties about 2004 election, but one thing is beyond any doubt – Hollywood, is all but unanimously going to lend support for Kerry, with few token Hollywood Republicans being conspicuously quiet.

There are many convenient explanations for that phenomenon. Some are ideological – entertainment industry professionals cherish freedom of expression and censorship was traditionally associated with conservative Republicans. Other explanations take into account demographics – most Hollywood actors belong to minorities which traditionally take Democratic side.

However, this can't explain the hatred Hollywood feels towards Bush, which is as intense as the one expressed by the lunatic fringe of American Left (or lunatic fringe of American Right during Clinton years). This hatred has its roots in Bush's character traits and image. With his sobriety, traditional religiosity, impeccable petit bourgeois personal life and utter plainness he represents antithesis of an average Hollywood celebrity. Bush also lacks many talents that Hollywood professionals take for granted. Thought of such obviously untalented man enjoying more fame and publicity than them causes great deal of envy among Hollywood people. This envy, just like in many similar instances, reflects itself in pathological hatred.

But the real source of Hollywood's anti-Bush stance is more prosaic. Most of Hollywood films don't manage to make any kind of profit unless they have a run in non-USA markets. That makes Hollywood more dependable on non-Americans and their public sentiments than on American audiences. This dependence manifested itself in Steven Spielberg's decision to drop his plans about movie dealing with Munich Olympics massacre and Israeli hunt for Palestinian terrorists. Spielberg simply came to conclusion that such film could get audiences and positive reviews in USA, Israel and nowhere else; at the same time bad reputation of such film could harm Spielberg's future projects.

Just as Spielberg wants to distance himself from Israel, Hollywood desperately tries to distance itself from George W. Bush, who is, rightly or wrongly, the most hated man in the world today. Ideology and feelings play second fiddle to simple economic interest.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Principles and Democracy

Colorado is going to hold referendum on constitutional changes that would, if passed, replace old "winner takes all" distribution of Electoral College seats with European-style proportional representation.

This proposal makes great deal of sense if the idea is to prevent future Florida fiascos. US President elected under those rules would have more legitimacy than President elected in 2000. The number of electoral seats is going to have less discrepancy with the number of actual votes being cast.

Unfortunately, for this proposal to make sense, all US states should adopt similar system. Current proposal in Colorado is motivated more with party politics and less with democratic principles. Colorado is Republican state and adoption of amendment could deny Republicans 3 or 4 of 9 seats they had in their pocket previously. Needless to say, some of the most ardent proponents of the new initiative are Colorado Democrats.

Needless to say, California Democrats are going to have very little understanding if some Republican proposes similar solution for their state.

And it is very likely that Colorado voters would vote on this issue on strictly party lines, making the passage of that amendment unlikely.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Croatia's Liberal Thugs

Arena, Croatian tabloid weekly, has been recently pulled out of Croatian newsstands. Reason was apparently unconfirmed story about Dragan Primorac, Croatian science & education minister, having a violent past. According to the story, one decade ago Primorac used to beat his girlfriend Sanja Pavela (currently HRT reporter). Primorac later denied the charges while Pavela declined any comment.

The reason why Arena was pulled out of stands quickly became subject of intense political speculations. Many think that Ninoslav Pavić (Ninoslav Pavic), head of Europapress Holding, didn't want to antagonise Sanader's government at the eve of his takeover of government-owned Slobodna Dalmacija.

Primorac is also known as the only member of Sanader's cabinet without party affiliation. He also gained reputation of the most liberal Sanader's minister.

But his liberalism wasn't liberal enough for ultra-left Feral Tribune. The latest issue, although not making any mention of Pavela affair, tries to portray Primorac as thug by making mockery of his "Dragan vs. Drogan" videoclips. The clips were part of campaign to reduce drug ("droga" in Croatian) use in Croatian schools by offering sports, including martial arts, as much healthier alternative. Primorac appeared in clips himself and displayed some of his martial arts skills.

The article attacked Primorac for using martial arts, because in Feral mindset, sticking needles into your own veins is morally and socially more acceptable that any skill that could be used against other human beings.

Friday, August 13, 2004

First Impressions of Athens 2004

I've just watched the opening ceremony. It looked less spectacular than the one in Sidney four years ago. But the mere fact that the Olympiad happened is a great achievement for Greeks and they probably didn't feel the need to impress the world with extra razzmatazz. They chose quality over quantity. The opening ceremony perhaps lacked tens of thousands of extras but the way in which they covered millennia of Greek history was very effective.

Iraq War Brings Destruction To Split

Last night police arrested two individuals – Croatian citizens – for vandalising ancient monuments in the very heart of Split. They spray-painted couple of monuments with slogans praising Saddam Hussein and "People's Liberation Struggle of Iraq".

I could only speculate what led those two men to commit such act, but relatively swift police action is somewhat easier to explain. This occurred in the middle of tourist season and authorities don't like possibility of certain foreigners seeing such slogans and making wrong conclusions about their own security.

Another Exciting Race?

2000 presidential election was one of the most exciting events in Croatian history. According to opinion polls, it took less than three weeks for Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic) to transform from complete outsider into clear favourite and beat such formidable opponents like ultra-popular Tudjman's foreign minister Mate Granić (Mate Granic) and charismatic champion of anti-Tudjman opposition Dražen Budiša (Drazen Budisa).

2005 presidential race is most likely to be equally exciting and unpredictable, although the general outcome is not much in doubt. Mesić, despite having most of his powers stripped through constitutional reform, despite series of diplomatic blunders, despite his flip-flopping at the eve of Iraq War and despite his embarrassing attempts to solve Gotovina Affair remains clear favourite. All relevant polls give him 15-20 % start over his main rival – Jadranka Kosor, vice-speaker of Sabor and one of the most popular HDZ politician. Kosor, despite her successful campaign to present herself as a gentler and kinder face of HDZ and despite fighting for the interests of veterans and single mothers in Sabor, is still burdened by her gender. Despite some window-dressing and pushing of female cadre in Račan's (Racan's) era, world of Croatian politics is still macho-oriented and that reflects on voters.

Kosor's likely defeat at the hands of Mesić presents a major dilemma for Sanader. Loss of HDZ candidate on presidential elections is going to be not only the first major blow for his party, but also crush the myth of Sanader's invicibility. And that myth is the only thing that keeps Sanader's coalition together and provides razor-thin majority in Sabor.

There are some speculations that Sanader is simply going to stay out of it. His relations with Mesić are more cordial than relations between Mesić and Račan in first two post-Tudjman years. Since Mesić likes to present himself as non-party person and "president of all Croatians, regardless of their party affiliation", Sanader can do it without much damage for his party prestige. After all, Mesić and Sanader used to be in the same time a decade ago.

On the other hand, many HDZ supporters are getting increasingly annoyed with Sanader's Europeanism and they yearn for the return of good old hard-line HDZ of Tudjman's days. Despite all the purges, people who could symbolise neo-Tudjmanism can still be found within Sanader's party. Many of them can rally HDZ hard core voters while scaring the non-HDZ electorate at the same time. Their general unelectability, however, plays little part in HDZ internal struggles. Sanader, if he feels threatened by re-emergence of hard-liners within his party, could deal with the eventual challenger by forcing him to clash with Mesić in presidential election.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

[ADMINISTRATIVE] Blogroll Addition

Jim Rittenhouse's Journal added to blogroll.

Talents and Disappointments

Recently I got opportunity to listen to Nera, the very first CD by Nera Stipičević (Nera Stipicevic), one of the more popular and successful contestants of Story Supernova Music Talents show. I have to say that my feelings towards the CD are mixed. The CD as a whole sounds like some strange compromise between jazz/lounge and turbo-folk with occasional and unfortunate mixing with world ethno music. But the most disappointing of all are the lyrics.

This explains why many of successful and ultra-popular music talents contestants have great difficulties in their quest to become genuine pop stars. They gained their popularity by doing covers of already popular songs. For example, Nera is magnificent when she is doing Edith Piaf's classic Johnny Tu N'Es Pas Un Ange. When she has to deliver lines like those in Ponoć (Ponoc) or Vatra, result is pathetic in comparison. Of course, it is too much to expect someone like Burt Bacharach to take care of Nera's very first album, but disappointment is there nevertheless.

Another problem for music talents show winners of Croatia is establishment's perception of their success being solely result of their good looks and fan base being limited to children and teenagers. This is the reason why Saša Lozar (Sasa Lozar), Tin Samardžić (Tin Samardzic) and Damir Kedžo (Damir Kedzo) became a boy band. Just like in the case of Nera Stipičević, few video clips played on Nova TV left much to be desired.

Their summer tour on Adriatic apparently left even more to be desired. They were scheduled to have 29 concerts. They did only 10. After having smaller crowds than expected and Saša Lozar's girlfriend serving as ticket attendant, three Croatian pop stars have terminated their relationship with managers Duško Srijemac and Denis Kadić (Denis Kadic).

All those problems didn't discourage other music talents stars to follow their example and multiply their fame by appearing as band. Ivana Marić (Ivana Maric), Pamela Ramljak and Neda Parmać (Neda Parmac) – finalists of Hrvatski idol – are supposed to start girl band called "Feminnem".

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

An Eloquent Girl

One of the best news for Croatia yesterday was provided by Blanka Vlašić (Blanka Vlasic), Split athlete and part-time fashion model. On yesterday's EAA meet in Ljubljana Vlašić not only won but she also made 2.03 m and thus broke Croatian high jump record. This is great news, but Vlašić made the evening even more memorable by her most immediate comment following her historic jump. The sentence was short, related to some people's mothers and unprintable.

It is pointless to speculate to whom Vlašić directed such message in the moment of her greatest triumph. On the other hand, it is comforting to know that the Split athletes would continue to adhere to language standards established by great Goran Ivanišević (Goran Ivanisevic).

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

RIP Stjepan Sabljak (1968 - 2004)

To be perfectly honest, I didn't watch his movies. Not that I had much chance for that, because "straight to video" films made in Croatia have nasty tendency of never appearing in Croatian video stores.

But those who watched it claim that U okruženju (U okruzenju) was one of the most authentic war movies ever made – authentic not only because every actor (and director) was veteran, but also because it was one of the rare modern-day action films where actors use real guns with real bullets.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Remake of Severina's Movie?

According to, the inevitable has happened. Another Croatian celebrity has the videotape of the most intimate nature stolen.

This time the victim is Vesna Pezo, popular folk singer. The tape, apparently stolen from her car, contains Ms. Pezo having lesbian sex with Sladjana, woman who participates at Nightmare Stage, late night show on Zagreb OTV television.

So far, I haven't heard anything about the tape appearing on Internet yet. According to Ms. Pezo's manager Davor Mažuran (Davor Mazuran), Ms. Pezo and her husband are "in shock" and both declined any comment.

One comforting thought for Ms. Pezo is that she would, judging by L'Affair Severina, become more famous than ever in her entire career.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Severina Out of Big Brother

According to latest reports, Severina Vučković (Severina Vuckovic) has decided not to be the host of Croatian version of Big Brother.

Among the candidates most likely to fill that spot is Nina Badrić (Nina Badric), Croatian pop diva who made great deal of fuss by publicly mocking Severina long time before 11 Minutes That Shook The World.

Another candidate is Andja Marić (Andja Maric), former fashion model and rock singer. She is better known for rather explicit criticism of other Croatian pop and rock musicians than for any song of her own.

Both Badrić and Marić have a little bit of mean-spiritedness and misanthropy in their public images. As such, they could be very good hosts for the show that often presents people – both the contestants and the audience – in not so positive light.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

The Day After Shelbourne

Hajduk Split facilities at Poljud Stadium were apparently under heavy police protection last night. This cooled some heads and Hajduk players and officials this afternoon felt comfortable enough to appear publicly and have some serious discussion with 200 Torcida members who were demonstrating in front of playground. This encounter ended very peacefully, which had been hard to expect after last night's embarrassment.

Ripe For Resignation?

This year's celebration of National Thanksgiving Day (holiday during which Croatians celebrate liberation of Knin in 1995) is overshadowed with Sanader's spectacular U-turn in L'Affair Bechtel. After weeks of denying any wrongdoing and convincing Croatian public that the deal with Bechtel is national obligation, Sanader first tried to wash his hands by putting the question to European Commision. With Eurocrats apparently silent and with Croatian public still unhappy, Sanader was forced to renege deal with Bechtel and put out the legal tender for Dugopolje-Šestanovac (Sestanovac) section of Dalmatina Motorway.

Radimir Čačić (Radimir Cacic), leader of opposition HNS party and former minister in charge of motorways construction, said that Sanader's government is "ripe for resignation". His statement is something of over-dramatisation. Sanader made serious blunder but it happened too early in the mandate to have that kind of impact. SDP, HNS, HSS and other opposition parties can be happy about government's troubles but the voters still remember their governing too well to contemplate seriously regime change. If Sanader gets hammered because of this, it would happen during upcoming local and presidential elections.

Will They Return?

Few days ago Hajduk Split started its European season with the disappointing match against Ireland's Shelbourne on Poljud Stadium. The first leg match was 3-2 victory, but Hajduk players apparently showed disturbingly low levels of skill and determination. Members of Torcida, Hajduk's fan group, were apparently very concerned about possibility of defeat in the second leg. One year earlier, in similar situation, they dug graves on the pitch. It worked and Hajduk managed to get through.

This year, they invaded the pitch during Hajduk's 1st team training session and gave very short and very simple message to players: "If you lose in Ireland, you better stay there."

Fan's message was apparently not appreciated enough. Last night Hajduk lost 2-0 and provided Shelbourne with one of the most impressive results in the history of Irish participation in European club competitions.

This day, when Hajduk players are supposed to return to Split, is going to be very interesting. I wonder when will anyone of the players, coaches and club officials make a public appearance.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

The Age of Voyeurism

According to some still unconfirmed reports, Severina Vučković (Severina Vuckovic), pop singer who became one of the most famous Croatians of all times thanks to her 11 Minutes That Shook The World, is among the most serious candidates for the host of Croatian version of Big Brother.

Even without Severina this could become one of the highest rated shows in history of Croatian television, since people, regardless whether they are familiar with Croatian television censorship standards or not, are going to expect some sort of explicit sexual activity on screen.

With Severina as host, voyeuristic nature of the show is going to be confirmed.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Broken Taboo

"Sanader, we need Europe and not European Union" is the message that appeared on 20 jumbo posters on the streets of Zagreb. The man who ordered them is Nenad Ivanković (Nenad Ivankovic), one of the former leaders of HIP, small right-wing party. Although Ivanković hardly belongs to Croatian political mainstream, his move is the first instance of Euroscepticism becoming legitimate part of political discourse in Croatia.

And it isn't surprising that most virulent expressions of anti-EU feeling come from the right. Sanader, whom many right-leaning Croatians supported hoping for restoration of Tudjmanism, forced many Croatian nationalists to swallow bitter pills – he yielded to Italian and Slovenian territorial demands and made express deliveries of Croatian generals to Hague. Sanader justifies radical de-Tudjmanisation by portraying it as a price Croatia has to pay in order to become EU member. Needless to say, many believe that the price is too high and that Croatia must seek cheaper alternatives.

Ivanković also announced creation of new political party – SIN (Sigurnost i napredak – Security and Progress). It isn't likely that this party, regardless of its explicit Euroscepticism being in tune with Croatian public sentiment, would have better results than other minor league players from anti-Sanader right like HIP and HB. The party most likely to profit from rising Euroscepticism in Croatia is right but somewhat more mainstream and less overtly Eurosceptic HSP.

Monday, August 02, 2004

August Bounce

In the same way they had presented Blaškić's (Blaskic's) 9-year prison sentence for war crimes as triumph of an innocent man, Croatian media gave another positive spin to otherwise bad or prosaic news. In late July and early August Croatian tourist officials reported that 5% increase in number of foreign tourists compared with the same period of the last year. This increase is supposed to be excellent news, yet again fuelling the hopes of tourism-based prosperity that had eluded Croatia since independence.

This August bounce is good news, but it shouldn't be overplayed. 5% increase in early August in most likelihood won't mean 5% increase for the whole tourist season. Due to exceptionally cold, rainy and wet weather, June and July were utterly disappointing. It is too early to tell whether this relatively small gain in the season's peak could compensate for the earlier losses. In most likelihood, all those who work in tourist industry aren't going to have fond memories of this summer.

Bad weather in June and July of 2004 is going to be just another in the long series of convenient excuses – Kosovo War, WTC attacks, Iraq War - for the failure of Croatia's tourist miracle.

If Croatia really wants to make some money of tourism, this should require more effort than simply expecting legions of foreigners to spend all their time at the beaches and all their money on accommodation.