Friday, January 30, 2004
Ivona Lalić (Ivona Lalic) Update
Jurica Torlak, 22-year old man who killed 8-year old Ivona Lalić (Ivona Lalic) in front of her parents and hundreds of schoolmates, is going to spend next month in detention, thus allowing court to finish investigation stage of criminal proceedings.
In the meantime, Split city authorities are announcing that they would reinstall road barriers and thus prevent cars from driving through pedestrian zone in Tesla Street. Last week's tragedy hardly left any impression to the dozens of young drivers who continued to desecrate the killing site with their machines and thus defy laws and public sentiments.
Thursday, January 29, 2004
There is first time for everything, including guestbloging. I'll do a little bit of guestblogging at A Fistful of Euros.
Wednesday, January 28, 2004
Cherchez la femme
Anyone bothering to analyse the lyrics of popular "turbo folk" songs – musical genre which is popular in this part of the world and infamous for its association with extreme ethnic chauvinism - would probably find overwhelming majority of them being sobbing confessions of tough macho men who defeat all their enemies and don't have any problems until a women come into their lives and mess them up.
Similar kind of song would probably serve as the perfect musical illustration of the first major scandal to hit Sanader's government.
The story began with Stipe Ćaćija (Stipe Cacija), Croatian Army major who used to be employed in Ministry of Defence. Last few months before the elections Major Ćaćija was on the sick leave, but someone told Željka Antunović (Zeljka Antunovic) about Ćaćija not being sick enough to miss HDZ election rallies. With this Ćaćija broke laws that bar active military officers from actively taking part in political parties and their campaigns. Antunović started procedure for Ćaćija's dismissal, but that dismissal was made moot with elections.
It turned out that Ćaćija wasn't only participated in HDZ campaign. He actually moonlighted as Ivo Sanader's bodyguard. For his services he was awarded by getting so called "presidential pension" – special kind of privilege given by President Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic). That pension was given as part of a deal between Sanader and Mesić, but it turned out that Sanader wasn't through with expressing gratitude to his bodyguard. Ćaćija was appointed as assistant minister of interiors.
This affair caused some uproar in Croatian public, but apparently that wasn't enough for Sanader. Police union official who had accused Ćaćija for some illegal activity was suspended from the police force for his trouble. It seemed that Ćaćija was untouchable.
All that changed with recent article in Slobodna Dalmacija describing the plight of Sanja Jadrijević (Sanja Jadrijevic), woman from Ćaćija's home town of Sinj. 18 years ago she gave birth to Ćaćija's son. Ćaćija, like many fathers in such situations, reacted to pregnancy by breaking up. Jadrijević later proved paternity with two different tests but Ćaćija refused to pay alimony, forcing the woman to live in poor conditions.
Newspaper article didn't create much stir, but attempts of Ćaćija's friends to "friendly persuade" woman to retract her accusations and newspaper reporter Saša Jadrijević-Tomas (Sasa Jadrijevic-Tomas) did. Sanader publicly went after his protégé and Ćaćija offered his resignation.
More cynical observers might speculate about Sanader engineering the whole affair at the very beginning of his mandate in order to make himself look like the embodiment of integrity, at least in comparison with Tudjman and Račan (Racan). In any case, his reaction, no matter what the real motives were, was right thing to do. Only few years ago such quick response to the public outrage was unimaginable. Things in Croatia might be getting better after all.
Bad Year for Kostelićs (Kostelics)
Making career in sports is much riskier than most people think. At least this is impression you might get from Kostelićs (Kostelics) – Croatia's most successful sports clan. It doesn't take much even for the toughest athletes to be put out of action. Janica, who had successfully battled numerous injuries, had to sacrifice this season because of thyroid gland surgery. Ivica crashed yesterday.
That would mean at least a year without any chance for Croatians to expect medals from the ski slopes. Janica's team mates Ana Jelušić (Ana Jelusic) and Nika Fleiss are improving and might have really great future in front of them, but those triumphs would come too late for the spoiled Croatian ski fans who, with Kostelićs out of picture, might forget that this exotic sport even exists.
Tuesday, January 27, 2004
After long hiatus Isabella V. a.k.a. Flight Risk is back. In one of her latest blog entries she expresses her views on Paris Hilton and her sex video. Especially interesting and revealing is the last paragraph.
I must say that those views are very close to mine. I had intended to write about them in blog entry called "Naked Anja Alavanja".
Monday, January 26, 2004
Sunday, January 25, 2004
More About Ivona Lalić (Ivona Lalic)
The killing took place in Tesla Street – part of Split with the highest concentration of educational institutions. Primary school is next to six high schools and three university departments. That means that the street is crowded with hundreds of pupils and students, ages ranging from 6 to 26 years, especially around 13 and 19 hours when classes end.
In good old days, when students used only buses or their feet as means of transportation, that wasn't the problem. But today too many Croatians, especially those with high incomes, see cars and motorcycles as the best substitute for proper parental care and equip their teen children with BMWes and Alfa Romeos. Needless to say, when those children happen to be male, they are forced to display their vehicular capacities in front of their female classmates. They usually do it by parking in front of school, making street much narrower.
Sometimes those people don't have to be students at all. Sometimes they wouldn't set foot near any school, but they must impress their girlfriends. And drug dealers are also said to drive there in order to fill the needs of Croatian youth. Due to many reasons I feel too depressed to elaborate, both categories are unlikely to worry about traffic police.
Some time ago, after urging from school authorities, road barriers were set on the one side of street. One night they disappeared and whoever did that obviously had access to heavy equipment and people with engineering ability and experience. Someone very powerful or very rich made sure that cars can drive through Tesla Street without any problem.
And even those barriers couldn't stop the motorcycles, including the one driven by 22-year old Jurica Torlak, who, according to Slobodna Dalmacija, didn't show any sign of remorse while being questioned by investigating magistrate. What happened on Thursday wasn't the first time. Motorcycles were speeding through that narrow street before and there were accidents, leaving students with serious injuries. Nobody did anything about it, at least nobody powerful and influential enough to make a difference. I doubt that this tragedy would change a thing – it will make people angry, there would be couple of newspaper articles but soon convenient excuses would be found for this case to be forgotten and those responsible forgiven for their crime.
Friday, January 23, 2004
School Killing in Split
Yesterday, around 13:15, life of Ivona Lalić (Ivona Lalic), 8-year pupil of the very grammar school I had attended many years ago, was taken by 22-year old Jurica T. It happened in front of the girl's father and hundreds of her classmates who were leaving class. The perpetrator, who killed little girl with motorcycle, has surrendered to police 15 minutes later.
Only last night I heard about the event but I was too busy to mention it in my blog. Now I'm glad I haven't written anything about it earlier. Otherwise I would have expressed what I really felt at the moment.
The words I had in my mind at that particular moment aren't the words I would like to use in my blog ever again. Nor would I like to write what I wanted to do certain people after realising that this incident wasn't incident at all – it was only brief moment when plenty of things wrong with this city and this country became more apparent than usual.
I'll try to blog about this later, when I have more time and when my head gets a little bit cooler.
Thursday, January 22, 2004
RIP Anton Marti (1923-2004)
Anton Marti, one of the television pioneers in former Yugoslavia, has died in Zagreb last night.
Marti, born in Istrian town of Labin, has worked in theatre before joining Zagreb Television in 1956. There he specialised in directing music shows and created his very specific style that would be copied by everyone in former Yugoslavia. Because of his heavy Italian accent and great sense of humour he was popular among television crews and audiences alike. His death is another reminder that television – one of those things modern world can't imagine being without – came to this world less than a lifetime ago.
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
SSNMT – Where Are They Now
More than a month after the end of Story Supernova Music Talents, new Croatian megastars are struggling to remain in public spotlight.
The winner, Rafael "Rafo" Dropulić (Rafael "Rafo" Dropulic) gave very interesting interview to Svet, Belgrade tabloid, in which he badmouthed some of his former housemates and told that he occasionally didn't wash for five days. According to "Rafo", such periods, caused by depression, often inspired his creativity.
Damir Kedžo (Damir Kedzo), Tin Samardžić (Tin Samardzic) and Saša Lozar (Sasa Lozar) are quietly preparing for the inevitable and the most embarrassing part of their contractual obligation – forming of boy band.
Nera Stipičević (Nera Stipicevic) has just failed in her bid to win role in Croatian stage production of Chicago. I didn't think that she had any chance. Severina, with her long experience and big clout, can pass as a serious stage performer. Nera Stipičević is too young and too weak compared with theatre professionals and their lobby.
On Saturday's convention Marija Fićurin failed in her bid to become first chairwoman of HSLS. The top spot came, as expected, to Varaždin (Varazdin) mayor Ivan Čehok (Ivan Cehok) who had won overwhelming majority of delegates. Fićurin came distant third, with another challenger Dražen Breglec (Drazen Breglec) winning 2nd place.
Čehok next day appeared in Nedjeljom u 2 talk-show on Croatian state television. I didn't watch most of the show, but I liked his healthy Euroscepticism – unlike most of Croatian politicians who see Croatian entry into EU as some kind of self-explanatory historical obligation and necessity, Čehok asks heretical questions about economic benefits of such move. Of course, all this might be nothing more than cheap Europhobic right-wing demagoguery since Čehok (despite some attempts to portray him as modern centre-oriented politician that would reinvigorate Croatian centre parties and liberal ideology) currently belongs to the right-wing of Croatian politics. Čehok enjoys reputation of moderniser mostly due to his physical appearance –shoulde-length hair and long beard – which make him look "hip" compared to his stiff-upper-lip and conservative predecessor Dražen Budiša, while few appreciate his tenure of Varaždin mayor which allowed his party to keep enough votes for Čehok to win a Sabor seat in November. Most of the commentators (who, unlike me, had seen the show in its entirety) didn't like Čehok's debut in Nedjeljom u 2. Voters in Osijek-Baranja County weren't impressed either, judging by the results.
Art Criticism vs. Diplomacy
When it comes to the issue of Israeli ambassador in Sweden engaging in art criticism, Jonathan Edelstein made nice post about it.
I personally feel entitled comment only on the incident itself, not on the artwork in question. Regardless of what the artwork represented, what the author wanted to say and how people perceived it, Ambassador Mazel should have known better. He is professional diplomat and, as such, his job is, to quote Ambrose Bierce, "telling people to go to Hell in a way that would make them looking forward to such journey". Engaging in vandalism, no matter how morally and emotionally justifiable, is not the best way to represent your country.
If such incidents become standard diplomatic behaviour, I can only imagine what would French ambassador to USA do to cinema theatres showing The In-Laws.
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
My Take on Iowa Caucuses
I don't have much time to follow or to blog about US Presidential race. So, Iowa caucus and its immediate aftermath was the first instance when I actually paid some attention to Democratic candidates.
I must say that I'm slightly surprised (and somewhat disappointed) by the results. I expected much closer results between four major candidates and I was rooting for Dean. This result also improves chances of Wesley Clark, the only Democratic candidate whose nomination would make me vote for Bush (in case I miraculously get opportunity and will to participate in the whole process).
On the other hand, victory of Kerry and Edwards hurts Clark as much as it hurts Dean. Clark draws much of his support from "anybody but Dean" crowd and "it takes Southerner to beat Southerner" crowd. After Iowa both groups would get their new champions. If Kerry pushes on 2nd place in New Hampshire, Clark would become history.
I must also admit that Dean's post-election speech was weird. In case Dean wins in November, White House is going to be less dull place than it is today. Compared with Kerry (and, to a lesser degree, Clark), Dean has much more spirit and charisma.
John Edwards didn't win me over. He looks too much like a Hollywood star or self-help guru.
Price of Getting High
Like many, I'm amazed with the absurdity of drug laws that put cannabis and other so-called "soft" drugs into the same basket with heroin and crack. I don't think that I should repeat other people's arguments about branding generally harmless people as criminals, linking pot and crack dealers and wasting precious law enforcement resources into something which is not the real problem.
But, through the years, I also got increasingly sceptical towards all those who, in trying to fight anti-drug laws, went to the other extreme and created whole cult of pot, claiming that it represented solution to all of the world's problems. I also became less receptive towards all those claiming that pot was completely harmless drug and that its use hadn't got any nasty side effects. It seems that my scepticism was justified.
Monday, January 19, 2004
King Dethroned (and Maimed)
It was inevitable. The Return of the King had to come down from No. 1 spot. But being at No. 2 still gives glimmer of hope that Peter Jackson's film would, in the end, dethrone Titanic as the most popular film of all times.
In the same time, there are media reports of Cinestar, one of Zagreb's most popular and most advertised multiplex cinema theatres, cutting some 20 minutes of The Return of the King during projections.
Sunday, January 18, 2004
East is Black
Today's elections for Osijek-Baranja County Assembly were the first major test of Croatian political parties' popularity following general elections in November. The results (based on data collected on 342 out of 442 polling stations) show that the Croatian right-wing continues to win new ground and continues to do with a vengeance. HDZ has won 35,84 % of the vote, and this was hardly a surprise – that party fares well in the easternmost part of Croatia. But the surprise – nasty to many – is the second place of far right HSP, which has won 14,76 %. Parties belonging to former governing coalition of Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan) – won only 12,1 %. Other parties to break 5% limit and enter Assembly are HSU (pensioners) with 7,05%, LS - whose leader and charismatic mayor of Osijek Zlatko Kramarić (Zlatko Kramaric) enjoys great deal of popularity in that party of the country – has won 6,06%; HSS has won 5,81 %.
Based on these results, HDZ has won elections and power in Osijek-Baranja County. The only question is whether it would create right-wing coalition with HSP or try to keep its "gentler and kinder" national image by aligning with less problematic partners on local level (HSU and HSS are the most likely candidates).
UPDATE: SDS, Serb nationalist party, was very close to entering Assembly with 4,60 % of the votes. Sanader's allies – DC and HSLS – also failed to get to Assembly, winning 3,11 and 2,03 % of the votes respectively.
I guess that many commentators would explain the surge of HSP with Osijek-Baranja County voters reacting to the good results of Radicals at Serbian elections.
UPDATE: According to latest results, SDSS has won 5,4 % and slipped into Assembly.
Total breakdown of seats (48 total):
HDZ - 20 (+1 filling Serbian minority quota)
HSP - 8
SDP/HNS/Libra/SBHS - 6
HSU - 4
LS - 3
HSS - 3
SDSS - 3
The law that banned grocery shops being open on Sunday had some of the most ardent proponents among labour unions. Some of their officials claimed that the law would protect the rights of employees in retail industry and thus guarantee them their undeniable right to have one day of rest.
It seems that some of the workers would get more than one day of rest. Citing the dramatic loss of income following the adoption of the law, agriculture firm PPK has laid off six of its grocery store clerks in Bjelovar. Management says that 18 more (out of 170 labour force total) would be laid off until the law doesn't get changed in next few months.
Saturday, January 17, 2004
The Easy One
Predictions are always thankless, but at least one seems easy. If Howard Dean loses Iowa caucuses, or at least fares significantly worse than expected, Wesley Clark is going to be Democratic nominee for US President. At least this is what I get from Michael Moore endorsing Clark. When the ultra-leftist and pacifist who had criticised Clark's greatest achievement – Kosovo War - in Bowling for Columbine endorses said general and explains it with very blunt political calculation, that means that Democratic Party or anti-Bush forces look desperate at this stage.
Beautiful Game and Not So Beautiful Ideas
Female soccer players apparently don't like idea of wearing skimpier uniforms in order to attract more (presumably male) audiences. This suggestion by FIFA president Sep Blatter might seem reasonable – women's soccer needs more commercial support than man's – but it ignores one important fact. Women's soccer – due to the nature of the game, dimensions of the field and, last but not least, physical look of the top soccer players – is never going to attract male crowds like ladies' tennis or female volleyball do.
Mud wrestling industry has nothing to worry about.
Friday, January 16, 2004
Carmine Caridi, 69-old actor and AMPAS member who came under media spotlight following illegal copy of Something's Gotta Give of his "For Consideration" movie screener, is best known for playing Mafia characters.
CORRECTION: Just to remind you, Jack Valenti and MPAA, originally wanted only AMPAS members to receive "For Your Consideration" screeners. AMPAS was supposed to be made of responsible and trusted individuals who would never jeopardise the industry in which they earn bread, unlike those pesky film critics who can't wait to indulge in piracy.
Thursday, January 15, 2004
New Definition of Tourism
Osijek, regional capital of Slavonia, is known for many great things, but being tourist resort is not among them. That didn't prevent city administration from proclaiming it to be just that. The reason is the loophole that allows such cities and municipalities to have groceries stores open on Sundays. Being close to the borders of Serbia and Hungary allowed some of Osijek shopping malls to make good business due to cross-border shoppers. In normal circumstances nobody would call that tourism, but new definitions come handy in combating idiotic laws.
In the meantime, after some contradictory statements, Sanader's cabinet has announced that it would change said legislation allowing petrol stations to work 24 hours a day and lifting the limits on bakeries, family-owned and convenience stores.
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
I can only begin to think how would non-American public react to President Bush's initiative. As far as I'm concerned, there is nothing wrong with the idea of space exploration being raised on new level. The only problem is who and how is going to foot the bill. I guess that those who aren't going to foot the bill – non-Americans – are going to be among Bush's initiative's harshest critics, simply because the rising anti-Americanism in the world is going to be affect views about space exploration in general. Most people in the world today (with exception of Russian and Chinese) view space exploration as something strictly American and, therefore, something wrong. Rationalisations of that attitude ("robotic probes are cheaper", "they should spend money on AIDS and rain forests instead" etc.) are going to come later.
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
King Still Reigns
Just as expected, Sony was a little bit over-optimistic in its estimates of Big Fish weekend box-office. The Return of the King still reigns supreme on American box-office charts.
In the meantime, The Return of the King has broken another record – its final credit sequence lasts 9 minutes and it is the longest in the history of cinema. This is hardly surprising, considering the large number of people involved in the project. Howard Shore had to compose few extra tunes of soundtrack to cover that, I guess.
Monday, January 12, 2004
Victory of Common Sense?
Jutarnji list reports that Ministry of Economy, Labour and Entrepreneurship is about to propose repeal of the law that banned grocery shops from being open on Sundays. Perhaps the November 23rd elections did produce better government than Račan's (Racan's). Ivo Sanader's government is made mostly of single party, and thus doesn't have to spend time and energy on coalition squabbles like Račan; on the other hand, its majority is tiny and dependant on ethnic minorities; thus Sanader would have to work very hard in order to keep this majority and maintain good will and popularity of Croatian people. Repealing absurd and annoying laws is step in the right direction.
Music in Black
These days, the biggest media story in Croatia is a scoop made by index.hr on-line news site. Their reporters discovered a song performed by Marko Perković "Thompson" (Marko Perkovic "Thompson"), controversial but immensely popular Croatian turbo folk singer whose concerts in Netherlands had been recently been banned under that country's anti-Nazi legislation. In the song titled "Jasenovac i Gradiška stara" (Jasenovac i Gradiska Stara) "Thompson" openly praises genocide of Serbs commited by Ustashas during WW2. When confronted, "Thompson" at first denied that he had anything with the song. Later he admitted singing that song, claiming that it was protest against "Communist" government of former prime minister Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan).
"Thompson" was never stranger to controversy, including Ustasha insignia and threats made on reporters trying to cover his concerts. However, official Croatia, including its cultural and intellectual establishment, usually ignored all those incidents, partly out of fear of growing multitudes of "Thompson's" fans (especially among Croatian youth), partly because they feared that any reaction towards him would shatter the carefully built image of Croatia as modern, "European" country which is untroubled by its past, unlike its neighbour Serbia. But now the story, amended by the news of on-line petition demanding all-out boycott of "Thompson" and his music, has reached "official" media, prompting newspaper commentators to criticise "Thompson" more explicitly than they had in the past. Denis Latin, host of the popular Latinica talk show, has announced that "Thompson" and the latest controversy would be subject of his next show on Monday.
In the meantime, "Thompson" has been mentioned in the Wikipedia article describing Ustashas.
Sunday, January 11, 2004
It's Lonely At the Top
Once you get to the top, you realise that everyone wants to bring you down. Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema saw that today, with Columbia Pictures, at least according to them, using creative arithmetic in order to dethrone The Return of the King from No. 1 spot on this weekend's North American box-office chart.
I'm consider myself far from being some rabid Tolkien fan, but I'm little bit worried with weekly drops of The Return of the King grosses being larger than those of two previous films. It is getting unlikely for The Return of the King to reach numbers necessary to de-throne Titanic from the spot of the biggest grossing film of all time. Trilogy as a whole can do it, but not single films.
Friday, January 09, 2004
Feral Going Down?
Feral Tribune, Croatian weekly and one of the best known magazines in this part of the world, didn't appear on kiosks this Friday. Since Feral stopped receiving financial aid from American sponsors, magazine is going to return to cheap paper and daily newspaper format. In next few months all Feral employees are going to receive 30% less salary.
This could be a sad end for the magazine that used to be the legend of Croatian (and former Yugoslav) independent media. Then again, its editors and journalists would have only themselves to blame. They started as satirical supplement of Nedjeljna Dalmacija during Communism, continued as satirical supplement of Slobodna Dalmacija in early 1990s and finally established themselves as the best known satirical magazine in this part of the world. Unfortunately, with death of Tudjman – their prime target – Feral also began to slowly fade away. Attempt to replace Tudjman with George W. Bush failed and, in the meantime, many talented reporters and satirists left for greener pastures. Quality of the magazine deteriorated, especially the stuff that had made Feral great – satire.
I wonder whether Feral would survive. I sincerely hope so. Even as a shadow of its former self, Feral was different and refreshing compared with some other, more "established" Croatian weeklies.
Thursday, January 08, 2004
For a party which was all but wiped out during the latest elections (and even got shafted by its supposed ally HDZ during post-election coalition talks after winning only two seats), HSLS has quite interesting leadership struggle. After resignation of HSLS long-time leader and Croatia's politics eternal loser Dražen Budiša (Drazen Budisa) most pundits saw young, energetic and successful Mladen Čehok (Mladen Cehok) – one of two HSLS candidates to enter Sabor – as shoo-in for Budiša's replacement. But someone new has entered contest – Marija Fićurin (Marija Ficurin), 28-year old English teacher from Zadar. According to media reports, Fićurin's candidacy was not particularly well-received by party establishment but Fićurin claims that her youth and female gender could be only an advantage. If she wins, she could be the youngest major (if HSLS is to be called major) party leader in Croatia.
On the other hand, although HSLS definitely need fresh faces and although HSLS really needs to regain its liberal credential by overcoming gender barriers, having woman at its helm could very well have negative consequences for party future. Croatian voters don't like women in high places, and both SDP and HNS suffered from not taking patriarchal, conservative and macho sentiments of majority of Croatian electorate. Then again, HSLS is not supposed to pander to great unwashed masses.
Wednesday, January 07, 2004
A Tale of Two State Televisions
Tonight I've just watched Murder Rooms, or to be precise, what I supposed to be Murder Rooms. This is another example of British quality television – innovative and interesting take on the whole Sherlock Holmes mythology, with Charles Edwards doing wonderful job as young Arthur Conan Doyle and Ian Richardson being very effective as his mentor Dr. Bell (and model for his fictional creation). Unfortunately, quality of BBC production again came together with sloppiness of Croatian state television – first movie in the series was never aired.
Tuesday, January 06, 2004
The King Rules
OFCS has announced winners of 2003 OFCS Awards. I must say that I'm very pleased with the results. Most of the winners match my favourites.
I can't help noticing that Kill Bill Vol. 1 is greatest loser this year. 9 nominations and 0 awards.
Monday, January 05, 2004
Greatest Croatians of All Times
According to the poll conducted by Nacional:
1) Josip Broz Tito
2) Nikola Tesla
3) Ruđer Bošković (Rudjer Boskovic)
4) Miroslav Krleža (Miroslav Krleza)
5) Franjo Tudjman
6) Dražen Petrović (Drazen Petrovic)
7) Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic)
8) Ivo Andrić (Ivo Andric)
9) Tin Ujević (Tin Ujevic)
10) Stevo Karapandža (Stevo Karapandza)
Although I don't doubt the top results of this poll correspond to the sentiments of majority of Croatians, I consider it quite flawed. For example, Ivan Vučetić (Ivan Vucetic), inventor of fingerprinting, wasn't among proposed candidates. And Rafael Dropulić (Rafael Dropulic) was nowhere in sight, which makes this poll moot for majority of young Croatian women.
Sunday, January 04, 2004
Bread Lines Again
Whenever someone in Croatia starts lamenting for the good old days of Communism and Yugoslavia, those who aren't that enthusiastic about those times quickly counter by mentioning phrases like "petrol rationing" and "bread lines". When those things appeared in Yugoslavia in early 1980s, although never as annoying and long-lasting as in USSR and other countries of Eastern Bloc, they quickly began telling to people that something was definitely wrong with Tito's state and their shock value turned many loyal citizens into closet anti-Communists.
Now, fourteen years after the official end of Communism, bread lines are again appearing in Croatia. New legislation banning grocery stores from being open on Sundays is in effect. First consequences range between major inconvenience and utter disaster.
New law was passed by old Sabor after months of lobbying by alliance composed of Catholic Church, few unions and Ivica Todorić (Ivica Todoric), owner of national grocery store chain. They claimed that the workers in grocery stores were unjustly exploited and forced to work on Sundays, thus being denied "their Christian day of rest". Račan's (Racan's) government, few months before elections, caved to the pressure, hoping that Church would at least pretend to be neutral during the campaign (which it did not, preferring Sanader's HDZ, of course).
There are few loopholes in legislation, though. Grocery stores are allowed to work on Sunday, but under strict conditions – only one store can serve 5000 inhabitants, it can be open only between 8 and 13 and its space mustn't exceed 200 square metres. Local authorities are left with the task of deciding what stores would be open and when.
Since there are too many grocery and convenience stores that are below 200 square metres limits, major towns in Croatia have established system of rotation. Schedule of stores being open is published in daily newspapers and here in Split each individual store would be, on average, open once a month or even less frequently.
Since I live in relatively densely populated urban environment, this isn't particularly inconvenient to me, since grocery stores in my neighbourhood aren't far. But in suburbs and semi-rural areas there are people who have to walk 6 kilometres to the nearest store. If those people are old, or if the weather is bad, many would decide to spend Sunday without fresh bread. And when and if they finally get to the store, they would have to realise that small, crammed-up stores aren't that well-supplied. Bread lines were reported in many cities.
The law was also unclear about news kiosks and petrol stations – which, according to some interpretations, would have to stop working at 21 hours. Many newspaper publishers are seriously considering scuttling their Sunday editions because of this.
There is another loophole in the law, which was used by local authorities in Istrian towns – any area can proclaim itself to be "tourism zone" and thus be spared from the limits of this annoying law.
Most commentators consider this law to be hypocritical, ineffective and annoying. Many expect this law to be amended or abolished. If Sanader's government (which already reneged on its pre-election promise to immediately lower VAT rate from 22 % to 20 %) is serious about improving overall economic situation in Croatia, it should start with this.
Saturday, January 03, 2004
Fame, Shame and Honour of Croatian Show Business
Anja Alavanja, Nova TV host and arguably the most popular Croatian blonde, has recently complained about few individuals using the latest marvels of computer graphics technology in order to put her fake nude pictures on Internet. She says that she can't understand why people would do such things and why there are so many evil people spreading false information. She also says that she would ignore such things in the future.
She can ignore it, but she could also feel good about this. Fake nude pictures on Internet are among the best indicators of popularity. So far no Croatian celebrity has enjoyed such honour.
New Year, New Government and New Rules
In good old times television studios of former Yugoslavia considered New Year's Eve to be the ultimate highlight of their respective programs. That time slot was reserved for the most spectacular shows, most popular performers and viewers were supposed to see things denied to them in other 364 days of a year – parody version of popular shows or even news program; best Hollywood blockbusters etc.
Croatian state television is continuing (or, to be more precise, trying to continue) this noble tradition, regardless of the fact that its viewers have somewhat bigger choice of things to watch thanks to satellite dishes, cable operators, VCRs and DVD players. Those few brave souls who had given HRT a chance this year have regretted their decision – New Year's Eve program was bad even for Croatian state television's standards. Damir Matković (Damir Matkovic), chief editor of Entertainment/Sport Program and Aleksandar Kostadinov, editor of Entertainment Program, have resigned.
Jutarnji list, however, reports that the most problematic aspect of the program happened to be comedy show featuring two actors trying to impersonate President Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic) and late President Franjo Tudjman. Supporters of the latter were apparently offended and after the last elections their word counts more than it used to.
The End of Rock in Croatia
The most spectacular New Year celebration in Croatia happened on Jelačić Square (Jelacic Square) in Zagreb. It was concert – partially funded by SDP-dominated Zagreb city government – by Miroslav Škoro (Miroslav Skoro), folk singer most famous for his role in expert panel of Story Supernova Music Talents. His concert featured some of SSNMT finalists and was attended by some 70,000 people, mostly teenagers.
At this particular moment, Croatian rock bands or rock musicians can consider themselves very happy if they manage to fill modest-size music halls. Turbo folk, in its explicit and implicit forms, dominates Croatian music industry. In terms of politics and economy Croatia indeed might belong to West, but culturally it still has much more in common with its eastern neighbour.
Friday, January 02, 2004
Recipe For Disaster
In order to strengthen his position in post-election coalition talks, Vojislav Koštunica (Vojislav Kostunica), former president of FRY and leader of DSS, second largest party in Serbian Parliament, hinted at possibility of grand coalition that would include all parties, including ultranationalist SRS and Milošević's (Milosevic's) SPS. The idea is to have provisional government, made out of experts and whose only purpose and only task would be to bring new constitution and few basic laws before next elections held in six months.
I hope that Koštunica isn't serious about it. Even if this scheme, by some miracle works, in six months Serbian electorate is only going to be even more sympathetic towards radical nationalism – liberal "pro-democracy" forces are going to fare even worse than on December 28th.
Minority government – proposal floated by some "pro-democracy" politicians – is preferable solution to the post-election gridlock.
At the same time, Croatian President Stjepan Mesić (Stjepan Mesic) says that the Serbian elections would only accelerate Croatian entry to EU. Good and valid reasoning, but Mesić had nasty tendency to be over-optimistic or completely miss his mark when it comes to Serbian elections. I remember him being on Croatian television in December 1990 and speaking confidently about Slobodan Milošević's (Slobodan Milosevic's) victory on Serbian elections as "victory for peace, because war-mongering extremists like Vuk Drašković (Vuk Draskovic) have been defeated".
Thursday, January 01, 2004
Year of Blogging
I've been writing this blog for a year, and I made some observations.
I can write long, detailed articles about whole variety of subjects.
I can pay attention to my English grammar, watch for errors etc.
I can make regular updates of this blog.
But I can't do all of the above at the same time.