Thursday, September 30, 2004

Big Brother Croatia Update: First Endorsements and First Campaigns

RTL web server is currently unavailable, and this is hardly surprising after the scenes displayed in this evening's Big Brother daily summary. RTL Televizija viewers had opportunity to see some highlights from last night's birthday party. The high point of the evening occurred when all 12 contestants – for the first and, in most likelihood, the last time – shared the same Jacuzzi, fuelled with alcohol. All that profound effect on some contestants, most notably Filip who engaged in hours-long makeout session with Sanja. Then Sanja rose this spectacle to another level by performing another make out session, this time with Sanja. At the end, both girls gave perfect ending to this evening's daily summary through their flashing of breasts.

It is difficult to speculate how all those events could affect blocs and cliques that had begun to emerge in the House. Filip is getting distanced from the rest of Beautiful People, most notably Marina. At the same time, Valentina also began to drift from Marina who, in her words spoken in Confessions Room, doesn't seem "to have much fun".

It is also difficult to speculate how all that would affect Friday's phone vote. Some contestants received endorsements. Marin Tironi, winner of Story Supernova, first Croatian reality show, endorsed Ozren who in, his words, doesn't deserve to suffer without girlfriend, even for "measly 1 million HRK".

Irena, Egle's best friend, has announced that she would try to lobby citizens of Rijeka to help her fellow citizen by voting Ozren out of House.

Departure of Political Commentator

Croatians now have three instead of one national television stations and for the first time they are able to witness phenomenon usually associated with soccer clubs – major rivals exchanging their personal assets.

One of the most spectacular transfers is arrival of HRT (state television) news anchor Iva Gačić (Iva Gacic) to Nova TV. Gačić is going to run Nova TV's news programme.

This meant bad news for Branko Vukšić (Branko Vuksic) who lost that position.

Many welcomed this change because they didn't like Vukšić's daily commentaries. Many thought of them as "too Communist" – not in their political content but in style. According to many Croatian, "modern European media" is incompatible with newsmen expressing their own political opinions.

On the other hand, I am led to believe that political commentaries do appear in Western news programme. Most spectacular was Walter Cronkite's commentary in which he had pleaded for negotiated settlement in Vietnam and which is often viewed as the decisive moment of Vietnam War.

Vukšić, of course, didn't and, in most likelihood, couldn't make anything of such importance. Closest thing, at least in my mind, was his explicit opposition to Sunday shopping ban – it was the first time that a television news personality (and even employed by TV station usually associated with Croatian right wing) explicitly stood up against Catholic Church. Vukšić's stance allowed other, more squeamish journalists and public personalities to join the overwhelming chorus of disapproval.

But something like that was rare. Recently, Vukšić's commentaries gave impression of quality being sacrificed for the sake of quality – something most bloggers are very familiar with. His comment on Beslan tragedy, for example, was nothing more than a rehash of all major newspaper editorials.

I'll miss Vukšić. Even when I disagreed with his views or didn't like the way of their presentation, he gave impression of consistency.

I can only hope that Iva Gačić could live to such standards.

Big Brother Croatia Update: Shock, Awe and Disgust

Last night was rather eventful in Big Brother House. You may get this impression if you watch current livestream and notice ever-present Marina and the rest of the female gang engaged in all-out cleaning operation. Many complain that they have to deal with broken glass and vomit.

It is too early to tell what really happened, at least for those who don't hang watch livestream continuously. What is certain is that a party was thrown for Alen's 25th birthday. First inter-gender French kiss occurred between Filip and Sanja.

Alen received a spectacular birthday gift in the form of VW Cabrio. The occasion was slightly by incident created by Valentina. Ever resourceful Herzegovina girl has used opportunity to find the exact time and later she turned on the radio. She immediately turned it off after being warned by Big Brother about rules breech.

Alen's gift is most likely to shock many of Big Brother fans, especially those who, unlike contestants, don't enjoy benefits of having rich parents or well-established local businesses. It is almost certain that this gift is going to create enormous voter backclash. If Alen gets nominated, he is almost certain to be thrown out of House.


It is all but confirmed that the "gift" for Alen was nothing more than RTL Televizija's publicity stunt. VW Cabrio is award that awaits one lucky phone voter.

The confusion was in most likelihood result of certain Croatian fan site that had misinterpreted the birthday party scene.

Writer of this blog apologises to his readers and all parties involved in this controversy.

Big Brother Croatia Update: Minute of Silence

Censorship has reared its ugly head again at RTL Televizija. Homosexuality discussion – which had found its way into other info-tainment shows – has been edited out of last night's daily summary.

Instead, viewers had opportunity to find whose dead historical person is constestants' favourite.

Antonija would like to bring back Jesus "because he was not as solemn and serious as depicted by Church". Ana and Marina would bring back Cleopatra. Valentina would bring back Mozart. Ozren would bring back Ayrton Senna. Krešo (Kreso) would bring back Elvis Presley.

Sanja has shown its History student credentials by nominating Stjepan Radić (Stjepan Radic) and telling that his survival could have prevented all "that Serb-Croat nonsense" and "spared the world of 20th Century horrors". I wonder what would good people at SHWI did out of this little counterfactual. Short work, most likely.

Alen nominated Stjepan Spajić (Stjepan Spajic) and told that he was deeply shocked and affected by his recent death, thus giving arguments to all those who think that his political views match his hairstyle.

In the end, consensus was reached in the form of Dražen Petrović (Drazen Petrovic). This wasn't much of surprise because two girls are from Petrović's home town of Šibenik (Sibenik). In the end, they all held minute of silence for the legendary basketball player.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Big Brother Croatia Update: Embarrassing and Not So Embarrassing Revelations

While the contestants in the House often complain about not receiving a single word from the outside, Croatian media has began to dig all kinds of stories about their past. Some revelations are merely intriguing, while some are embarrassing.

Alen is, according to Večernji list (Vecernji list), registered as proud owner of four different motor vehicles which definitely puts him into "Why This One Needs A Million" category of contestants. There are also reports about couple of traffic citations while Alen's own story about attacking policeman with a pen still remains unconfirmed.

Ozren, on the other hand, can already be seen as someone belonging to Croatian jet set. Edo Maajka, famous Bosnian rapper, is revealed as one of his close friends. Even in younger days Ozren had talent for mingling with celebrities – at the age of 16 he dated Nataša Leto (Natasa Leto), a girl who would later become one of the most famous Croatian handball players. But Večernji list also discovered couple of traffic citations and criminal record related to possession of marijuana.

While most people expect Egle to be evicted, Ozren's own mother hopes for the other result. She says that Big Brother is "much worse than she expected" and that, knowing what she knew now, would have tried to dissuade him from going to House. She says that she is concerned for his mental well-being and "deeply disappointed" for seeing him smoke on TV. She hopes that she would be evicted and return to loving girlfriend Viktorija Antolović (Viktorija Antolovic) with whom he had ten months of stable relationship.

Another, somewhat more explicit sort of revelations were provided by Alen. Tied with Antonija, he didn't think much of changing clothes and even briefly offering her sight of his most intimate parts of anatomy.

Big Brother Croatia Update: Filip Talks Left

There aren't many reports about the way Catholic clergy in Croatia reacted to Big Brother. But it is very unlikely that they are going to be very pleased with the way Beautiful People faction (Filip, Zdravko, Marina, with assistance of Sanja, temporarily tied with Zdravko as part of daily Big Brother task) talked about Church last night. Filip, Sanja and Zdravko explicitly criticised Church's position towards pre-marital sex.

Few hours before that, while discussing homosexuality, Krešo (Kreso) said that "abroad those things are happening every day and that he is happy for not being born in America". Filip immediately intervened by saying that "people shouldn't be judged on the basis of their birthplace" and thus established himself as the most outspoken liberal/progressive in the House.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Big Brother Croatia Update: Beckham Scores and Filip Receives Advice

According to official RTL updates and this evening's daily summary, nothing of importance has happened in the House on Monday, at least not during the day.

Evening was quite eventful. Saša (Sasa) has accidentally smashed small wardrobe during Jackass re-enactment. During another improvised game involving small ball made out of socks, Alen received a hit directly in his most sensitive spot. Ball was thrown by Zlatko. RTL Televizija has aired the footage of the incident with the titles "Beckham Scores".

Filip probably had the most eventful of all nights in the House and has only himself to blame. He made a serious error in entering girls' bedroom dressed only in his briefs just in the moment while the young ladies have been discussing his hairstyles. Marina said that, in her view, Filip could look better with his head shaven. Filip at first resisted, but the sight of Marina in underwear proved to be quite convincing argument. In a matter of minutes girls have shaven Filip's head; Marina did most of the work, adding hairstyling to the long list of skills displayed during her presence in House.

Losing his hair didn't discourage Filip from staying in girls' bedroom. His male housemates decided that additional lesson was required. They blocked the door leaving scantily dressed Filip in company of few scantily dressed and aggressive women. Filip decided to make the best of his predicament by performing very short striptease. The door was unblocked and Filip left girls' room in order to join his friends and tell them all kinds of war stories.

Discussion in men's bedroom was mostly revolving around Filip's love life. Saša (Sasa), Ozren and Krešo (Kreso) have offered all kinds of advice to Filip regarding his plans with opposite sex in the House.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Big Brother Croatia Update: First Injuries

Saša (Sasa) has slightly bloodied his nose on the rowing machine. He refused to take the band aid, although Alen immediately floated idea of calling doctor "just in case".

Potentially nastier incident occurred outside House. According to still unconfirmed reports, security was breeched and couple of local boys have managed to get to the House perimeter where they knocked on the door before being handled by security.

Big Brother House is situated in Jadran Film Studios in Zagreb. Same facilities were used for Auschwitz scenes during filming of Alan J. Pakula's 1982 film Sophie's Choice.

Normal State of Affairs

What began today in Zagreb County Court should have been the trial of century, but not in a country like Croatia.

10 men have been indicted for the kidnapping of Tomislav Zagorac, son of Vladimir Zagorac, former Croatian Army general and Zagreb businessman. Among the indicted are his former best friend and Zagreb businessman Hrvoje Petrač (Hrvoje Petrac) together with Petrač's son Novica, Vladimir's friend.

Petrač, whose name was often being associated with organised crime in Croatia, is tried in absentia, together with three more defendants. Petrač has recently been barred from entry into EU, allegeldy because he is suspected of being chief financier of General Gotovina's flight.

Today's day at court was rather eventful. Three men have admitted guilt, while defence prevented prosecution from using top secret Interpol memo as evidence. The memo, reportedly found in Petrač's house, accused Zagreb businessman of links with Serbian organised crime.

However, it is very likely that the trial – despite the flood of sleazy details and sensational revelations – won't cause much of attention among Croatian public. War and post-war years have made Croatians numb to all kinds of unpleasant surprises. This trial, regardless of its results, is only going to confirm what most Croatians thought of business elite, political establishment and law enforcement.

Big Brother Croatia Update: Getting Physical

Big Brother housemates got another weekly assignment. They must complete "Croatian Triathlon" – make 100 km on rowing machine, run 100 km and cycle 1000 km. They were given exercising equipment and each of them must take part in those three activities.

According to confessions, most housemates are convinced that they are going to complete their weekly task.

In the meantime, it became apparent that Ozren's nomination had at least something to do with his very mean and unpleasant drunkenness before the actual nominations. Many contestants saw this new side of Ozren's character as nasty surprise. Morning after, while sober, all 12 tried to deal with this new development.

Ozren is, however, unlikely to get out of House, at least according to on-line polls. Some 80 % are either want Egle out and see her as more likely candidate for eviction.

Another interesting development is Marina's statement that she doesn't mind being caught naked in front of camera. Soon first shower images appeared on Internet, showing her naked back. They were accompanied with images of Antonija showing her breasts, and last night's daily summary also offered brief glimpse of Ana's breast while she was changing clothes.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Big Brother Croatia Update: Beautiful People Hold Conference

Friction continues in Big Brother house, but this time source of conflict is smoking or, to be precise, whether to allocate more of House budget to cigarettes or alcohol. Non-smokers at the end proved to be more flexible and accepted smokers' demands. Alcohol divided housemates on gender lines – women preferred wine, while men demanded beer.

Quartet of Marina, Filip, Zdravko and Valentina held another meeting. Marina expressed her preference in men – "successful, but not necessarily famous" and "able to do the cooking, ironing and rest of housework". Valentina is less demanding – she wants only man "who won't make too much of a mess in the house". But the subject of discussion quickly turned from romance to politics. Zdravko was in full damage control mode, expressing his regret about certain words used during nomination and hoping that the fans outside won't misinterpret them as too harsh.

Baby Boom in Split

It must have been very boring Christmas holiday season. At least this is the impression given by sudden baby boom in Split. For the past five days maternity ward of local hospital is literally under siege. Twice as many babies are being delivered than under normal circumstances. It is already certain that number of births in 2004 is going to be higher than in 2003.

Most people think it is unlikely that this flood of "New Year babies" is going to dramatically change negative demographic trends in Croatia.

Double Standards

I find very strange that this man is seen as the most hated in the world and that the standards of forgiveness so often invoked in cases of child rapists, mass murderers and genocide instigators don't apply here.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Big Brother Croatia Update: Post-Nomination Blues

Last night's weekly show allowed me to make few observations related not to the contestants but to the show itself.

If some serious problems like fights, contestants walking out, suicides etc. ever occur in House there would be one simple explanation in the form of Big Brother chief psychologist. Tanja Pureta looks more attractive than female contestants. It looks like she got the job because of that, rather than her expert knowledge.

However, Tanja Pureta at least gives impression of knowing her business. Daria Knez, show's host, does not. In the greatest moment of her career she allowed Zagreb Drama Arts Academy training to rear its ugly head and completely ruin her performance. If there is Croatian television's equivalent of Razzie Award, Daria Knez would be among the prime contenders, thanks to her bad acting and pathetic attempts to be funny and "cool".

In the meantime, House is rapidly turning into dark and dreary place. Before nomination, Big Brother tried to cheer contestants by allowing them to watch Shreck on their TV. They also drank some alcohol and it turned out that Ozren can't hold his liquor very well. He raised his voice in very unpleasant manner and didn't look like a with whom most of contestants like to be at that particular moment. Alen and Ana also had serious altercation – Ana thinks of Alen as immature and both of them raised voices against each other.

Egle spent much of the day depressed.

Big Brother team was temporarily cheered up by successfully completing its weekly task. They increased their weekly house budget and are now planning to get more alcohol.

Big Brother Croatia Mini-Profile #12: Zdravko Lamot

Zdravko Lamot, born on January 26th 1981 in Zagreb, 182 cm, 75 kg, blonde hair, blue eyes, Aquarius, single, brother Martin, no children, student, hobbies – martial arts

The youngest of all contestants in his initial video-presentation gave impression of potential troublemaker. His love of martial arts, combined with friends/relatives talking about "immature" love affairs, indicated person with huge potential for conflict.

But during first week Zdravko remained mostly quiet and didn't show much effort in trying to be "cool". This is somewhat understandable, considering his "Beckham" looks that would do wonders when it comes to phone voting in later stages of contest.

Zdravko so far spends time cultivating few friendships and sometimes trying to teach martial arts to other housemates (with Valentina as his most enthusiastic pupil).

Big Brother Croatia Mini-Profile #11: Valentina Tasić (Valentina Tasic)

Valentina Tasić (Valentina Tasic), born on November 24th 1980 in Mostar, 170 cm, 67 kg, brown hair, brown eyes, Scorpio, single, sister Ivona, no children, student, hobbies – writing, painting

Mostar, city where Valentina is born, is capital of Herzegovina. Unfortunately, during 1992-95 Bosnian unpleasantness many people disagreed whose capital this city should be, resulting in many people having to raise their children elsewhere. Because of that Valentina grew up in Germany and now lives in Čiovo (Ciovo), small island where many wealthy citizens of Split keep their weekend houses and country estates.

Section of Čiovo where Valentina lives is relatively remote, allowing Valentina to run around house "naked without fear of being spotted by neighbours". But nudity is unlikely to appear in the show. Valentina is adamant of not being naked in front of camera and even takes shower in bathing suit.

Valentina might be conservative when it comes to expression of sexuality, but in spiritual matters she is more into New Age stuff. She believes in reincarnation, claims that she used to be in India during one of her past lives. She also claims that she had seen UFO over Čiovo one night.

Another characteristic of Valentina is that she holds strong views but often succumbs to emotion, whether this emotion is tears over nomination or her not so subtle drooling over Zdravko.

Valentina is huge fan of Big Brother and used to watch the show in Germany.

Big Brother Croatia Mini-Profile #10: Filip Voloder

Filip Voloder, born on May 2nd 1979 in Split, 176 cm, 75 kg, black hair, brown eyes, Taurus, single, sisters Patricia and Andrea, no children, entrepreneur, hobbies – tennis, riding horses

First shot of Filip Voloder's initial video-presentation showed him as bartender. But illusion of a blue-collar Joe Average disintegrated as soon as he mentioned his 11 years of tennis and he newly found fondness for horse riding. His apartment is near tennis court (one of the most posh sections of Split) and he owns a horse (something very few people in Croatia can afford). "Why this guy needs 1 mil. HRK in the first place?" is the question that immediately popped up.

Image of hard-working blue-collar Joe Average was more fitting for his parents from Dalmatian hinterland, at least until they returned from Germany with bundle of money which allowed them to raise their children in a world of luxury. Filip nevertheless has some problems with self-esteem and is apparently worried over hair loss.

He spent a lot of time in Germany and used to watch local version of Big Brother.

At first, he was very quiet and faceless. He opened up only later, with aggressive attempts to befriend everyone in House, which led many to mistake his excessive hugging of Sanja as some kind of romantic advance. But he abstained from major outbursts of "hipness" and later used his displeasure with displays of nudity to find common ground with some other housemates and thus start first Big Brother Croatia clique. He gives impression of someone who lacks charisma and leadership abilities, but compensates that with diplomatic skills.

Big Brother Croatia Mini-Profile #9: Antonija Blaće (Antonija Blace)

Antonija Blaće (Antonija Blace), born on October 2nd 1979 in Zagreb, 163 cm, 60 kg, light brown hair, green eyes, Libra, single, half-sister Branka, no children, student, hobbies – making lamps

Antonija was born in Zagreb, but she spent most of her early life in Dalmatia, thus keeping specific accent. She also spends summers on the island of Hvar where she works in the bar.

Of all housemates, Antonija is the one that fits description of "intellectual" – she studies Graphic Design and Portuguese language.

However, Antonija caught housemates' and audience's attention because of her other qualities. When they stop drooling over Marina, most of the male section of the House simply can't stop complimenting certain parts of Antonija's anatomy.

The audience, which had opportunity to see Antonija naked during Jacuzzi incident, is more intrigued by her very liberal views on sexuality. While discussing her love life, she expressed displeasure with monogamy and said that she saw "nothing wrong with being with five different guys". She also expressed her fondness for certain unorthodox sexual practices.

Big Brother Croatia Mini-Profile #8: Alen Mačinić (Alen Macinic)

Alen Mačinić (Alen Macinic), born on September 29th 1979 in Pazin, 176 cm, 73 kg, brown hair, brown eyes, Libra, single, sister Danijela, no children, entrepreneur, hobbies – acting

During his presentation Alen proudly stated that he had finished high school. Further education didn't seem important, considering his father who is entrepreneur in Istrian town of Pazin, wealthy enough to buy Audi TT to his boy.

Before entering show and according to apocryphal evidence, Alen some reputation of a local playboy. According to same sources, he dated local beauty pageant winners.

He met Marina before the show.

Immediately after entering the house, he began to drool over Marina, obviously thinking that his reputation of local Alpha Male can't survive failure to score with House's most desirable catch. However, houseguests at first weren't impressed with his macho antics. Alen then tried another strategy with sob stories about crying and feeling depressed over ex-girlfriend whom he had caught cheating. When that failed, he decided to try acting as Big Brother's version of court jester.

Alen is dedicated fan of NK Rijeka soccer team.

Big Brother Croatia Mini-Profile #7: Egle Brožič (Egle Brozic)

Egle Brožič (Egle Brozic), born on January 25th 1979 in Rijeka, 168 cm, 70 kg, light brown hair, brown eyes, Aquarius, single, sister Elena, no children, tourism/catering technician, hobbies – glass painting

Egle has unusual name and unusual background. Her parents are of Slovenian origin, while she attended Italian schools in Rijeka. That allowed her to learn Italian well and spend holidays in Italy.

Probably the most faceless of all candidates, she had immense problems in relaxing and emotionally connecting with other participants. However, she did appear nude in the Jacuzzi incident and, while discussing her love life, she also stated that she had tried certain unorthodox sexual practices only to find them unpleasant.

Like Marina, she also followed Il Grande Fratello, Italian version of the show.

Big Brother Croatia Mini-Profile #6: Saša Tkalčević (Sasa Tkalcevic)

Saša Tkalčević (Sasa Tkalcevic), born on December 11th 1971 in Bjelovar, 179 cm, 80 kg, blonde hair, blue eyes, Sagittarius, married, brother Ozren, sons Eduard and Ernest, locksmith, hobbies – sculpture, tattoos, bikes

Shortest description of Saša is "Bjelovar biker with wife and two near-teenage sons", but the most correct could be "natural leader in the house". Simply for being oldest and most experienced he became something of a father to the whole Big Brother family.

His blue-collar skills were also of immense help to other housemates, especially when they had to chop wood and put out fire.

Saša doesn't talk much and lets others entertain crowd, but when he talks everyone seems to listen. While he does this he is quiet, soft-spoken thus making his managerial style closer to Pope than oriental despot.

Big Brother Croatia Mini-Profile #5: Marina Bajlo

Marina Bajlo, born on January 14th 1980 in Medulin, 160 cm, 50 kg, brown hair, blue eyes, Capricorn, single, sister Paola, without children, tourist/catering technician, hobbies – dancing

"Bajlo" is Slavicised form of "Bailo", surname associated with notorious Fascists and collaborators during 1941-43 Italian occupation of eastern Adriatic (former Yugoslav, nowadays Croatian) coast.

City of Medulin is situated in Istria, peninsula whose inhabitants, in decade and half of Croatian independence, developed reputation of being more tolerant, open-minded and liberal than the rest of Croatia. They could have afforded it because Istria was one of the richest regions of former Yugoslavia, thanks to efficient and well-managed tourist industry.

Marina's family was one of many to benefit from this, but apparently not enough to spare their favourite daughter from having to work in their own caffe. It seems that most of the salary went to Marina's cosmetics, but she also managed to put all that to good use. Her initial presentation left many males in the audience simply stunned – in pink bikini she looked more like a supermodel than ordinary girl from Pula.

At first she looked nothing more than ditzy blonde, goldigger and tease, but this impression quickly changed after few hours. At first opportunity, when no other contestants were around, she began to quickly and efficiently wash dishes, clean tables and put house in order. Of all contestants, she seems to spend most time working, while the rest is dedicated to her personal appearance.

She doesn't seem to have much education and doesn't like movies much. The only LOTR film she have seen is Fellowship of the Ring. On the other hand, she used to be great fan of Il Grande Fratello, Italian version of Big Brother.

There isn't much to report about Marina's pre-House life. She used to date a young man doing his obligatory military service in Croatian naval base in Split. She also broke up with her boyfriend prior to the show, convinced that such relationship couldn't survive under such circumstances.

Marina Bajlo doesn't mind being caught naked in front of cameras, but draws the line when it comes parading in birthday suit in front of other contestants.

Big Brother Croatia Mini-Profile #4: Krešo Jengić (Kreso Jengic)

Krešo Jengić (Kreso Jengic), born on February 6th 1980 in Zaprešić (Zapresic), 186 cm, 85 kg, black hair, brown eyes, Aquarius, single, no siblings, without children, commercialist, hobbies – painting, acting

Zaprešić (Zapresic) is small town near Zagreb. Before coming to Big Brother, Krešo (or "Jenga", as he is affectionately called) used to work in hospital. He had girlfriend but, unlike Ozren, doesn't like to remind other housemates of this fact.

Even before appearing on the show Krešo, according to apocryphal evidence, enjoyed something of a reputation in his home town. He was one of the "coolest" guys in the neighbourhood. Most likely explanation for that is immense sense of humour which he used to amuse other housemates.
Nobody in the house takes him seriously, everyone seems to love him, but the outside world has other ideas. There are already some malicious rumours that attribute his antics to substance abuse. Some even claim that he joined Big Brother in order to get rid of drug addiction.

Big Brother Croatia Mini-Profile #3: Sanja Kvastek

Sanja Kvastek, born on June 18th 1981 in Zagreb, 162 cm, 54 kg, brown/black hair, brown eyes, Gemini, single, brother Martin and sister Kristina, without children, History student soon to graduate, hobbies – sewing, making ornaments, painting

Although born in Zagreb, Sanja Kvastek spent most of her life in Slavonia, which explains her heavy Slavonian accent.

Before appearing in the show she used to squat and attend poetry slams. She is outspoken vegetarian and promotes healthy lifestyle. Somehow she manages to reconcile that with her excessive smoking.

In the very first hours of the show she clearly indicated that she thought of herself as "hip" and "liberated". She was the first to publicly talk about her menstruation and later made detailed description of her bathroom activities. She was the first to publicly state that she would appear naked in front of cameras – which she did later on, albeit without the effect Marina Bajlo would later cause.

Sanja is very aggressive during conversations and very distinctive in any kind of fun activity. She always tries to animate others to join the fun.

When it comes to cleaning dishes, chopping woods and similar forms of housework her enthusiasm for physical activity suddenly drops. During such situations she prefers to sit and smoke.

Big Brother Croatia Mini-Profile #2: Ozren Petrić (Ozren Petric)

Ozren Petrić (Ozren Petric), born September 4th 1975 in Zagreb, 185 cm, 78 kg, blond hair, blue/green eyes, Virgo, single, no children, student, hobby: wakeboard

In his presentation, Ozren tried to give impression of an "ordinary guy" from Zagreb blue-collar suburbs, but he is actually the only contestant who had some sort of celebrity status before appearing in Big Brother house. In 1999 he became first Croatian beach volleyball champion.

He is student (where and what, he never told or RTL Televizija never bothered to investigate), but his 29 years of old show that he either decided to earn some degree late in life or that he wasn't a model student.

He didn't make much of an impression in first few days, preferring to stay silent and observe other candidates. When he did speak, girlfriend and immense love he feels for her were almost exclusive topic of conversation.

Later, he loosened up a little bit and took part in (in)famous naked Jacuzzi outburst.

He mostly hanged out with the guys, and Krešo (Kreso) seemed to be his closest friend.

Big Brother Croatia Mini-Profile #1: Ana Gotovac

Since non-Croatian Big Brother fans use this blog as a source of information about the show, I feel obliged to help them a little by offering mini-profiles of contestants and the highlights of their appearances during Week 1.

Ana Gotovac, born on January 30th 1974 in Šibenik (Sibenik), 178 cm, 62 kg, brown hair, brown eyes, Aquarius, single, sisters Tina and Irena, without children, economist, hobbies – acting and singing

Ana comes from Šibenik, city from where Goran Višnjić (Goran Visnjic) (of ER fame) and Dražen Petrović (Drazen Petrovic) – one of the greatest basketball players of all times – came. Šibenik is a city that suffered a lot during 1991-95 unpleasantness – although not the battleground itself, it was close enough to frontline to experience shelling. The war wrecked the city's economy – most of the money is made only during two months of tourist season; for the rest of the year Šibenik is dreary, depressive place where young men live on welfare and drugs. Ana said that her motive for entering the show was to "escape from all that".

Ana is among the older, more experienced and more educated contestants. She travelled to Italy. Used to play basketball and now on television prefers watching sports to soaps or movies. She immediately made a point about being single and not having children. In a small city like Šibenik, 30-year old women in such situation (and Ana's relatively attractive looks) are considered "weird".

Ana is somewhat aloof, but tries to compensate it with expressing liberal ideas and occasional outburst of hipness. At one time she sang Pink Floyd song, showing that she knows lyrics by heart – ability that is difficult to find among Croatians under age of 30. She doesn't think much of a marriage, seeing it as "hypocritical" institution. She would, more than anything else, prefer to have a baby. She had one miscarriage in the past.

Big Brother Croatia Update: Why Egle & Ozren

As I wrote in my previous post, Egle's nomination is hardly a surprise. She simply failed to "connect" with other contestants and remained anxious and depressed. She was the first to break down in Confessions room. Even before actual nomination, many of her housemates expressed concern for her mental state. While giving reasons for nominating, all contestants said that they are doing "for her own good".

Moment that brought Ozren down was pure melodrama. During conversations with housemates he said that he loved his girlfriend so much that he couldn't have imagined any other woman. His words were close to poetry, almost bringing tears to the more sensitive souls among housemates and audience. But this calculated descent into sappiness obviously backfired. Some housemates probably saw the way he looked at other girls in Big Brother and concluded that he was full of it. Others took him by his word and decided that they simply can't let such sensitive man spend three months in agony without his beloved girlfriend. offered same explanations few hours earlier.

Dark and Bright Tomorrows

In few hours Croatia might easily be affected by nation-wide blackout. From 08:00 to 17:00 CET power companies of Croatian and Bosnia-Herzegovina are going to disconnect their respective grids from the rest of Europe in order to test their ability to function on their own.

Any serious malfunction in each of two national grids might result in massive blackouts. The most critical hours are between 08:00 and 09:00.

On October 10th Croatia would join Europe-wide power exchange system and this could prevent similar blackouts from happening in the future.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Big Brother Croatia Update: Beautiful People Win Round 1

So, the first nomination is over. One nomination is all but expected – Egle Brožič (Egle Brozic) has failed to properly connect with other contestants, despite her sometimes desperate attempts to act "hip". Another represents complete surprise and shock, especially for teenyboppers– Ozren Petrić (Ozren Petric).

So, Beautiful People have won this one. Two nominated candidates belong to Exhibitionist crowd.

I must also add that, judging by the nomination vote tally, my favourite candidate has very little reasons to worry, at least in individual stages. The strategy, perseverance and hard work has obviously paid off.

Big Brother Croatia Update: First Blocs Emerging?

So many things are happening in Big Brother Croatia, too fast to those who want to keep track of them and too saucy for those who like to maintain the image of Croatia as conservative Catholic country. The worst thing is the lack of proper information – daily summaries on television are censored, live coverage happens only at night and even livestreams are manipulated .

However, it seems that the very eve of first nomination some basic blocs, alliances or cliques have began to emerge. One of them is - for the lack of better word - based on ideology. Valentina Tasić (Valentina Tasic), Filip Voloder, Zlatko "Beckham" Lamot have gathered together and expressed their displeasure with the (in)famous Jacuzzi outburst. Marina Bajlo, who also took part in it while keeping her bathing suit on, agreed with them. All four think that some other contestants went too far with their exhibitionism and that show can be fun even without excessive nudity.

If those four decide to act on those views, they might very well target certain contestants during nomination process and thus formally establish Big Brother Croatia faction of Beautiful People.

On the other side are those contestants who aren't particularly attractive, but aggressively try to compensate that with "cool" antics. Sanja Kvastek and Egle Brožič (Egle Brozic) might fit into this group of "Not So Beautiful Exhibitionists".

In the middle are those who might decide the final outcome of the show. Another potential grouping is Hippie Chicks – Antonija Blaće (Antonija Blace) and Ana Gotovac. Saša Tkačević (Sasa Tkalcevic), Ozren Petrić (Ozren Petric) could form the bloc of Quiet Committed Guys, while Krešo Jengić (Kreso Jengic) and Alen Mačinić (Alen Macinic) might form Macho Exhibitionists.

The nomination process is going to reveal whether certain contestants are more dedicated to fun or victory. Some might see one of their housemates as particularly annoying (Sanja is most likely candidate for that title) but nevertheless decide to keep her in order to get rid of more serious competitor in the future (Marina might easily become targeted as the most attractive woman of them all). Others might see their own mental stability in next 90 or so days as more important than long-term strategy.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Big Brother Croatia Update: Naked Truths

Even such esteemed news source as had to react to the latest Big Brother development. They showed the legendary images and accompanying text said that, based on them, "Marina Bajlo doesn't look special".

Those comments should be taken with a huge grain of salt because only few hours later proudly announced its own reality show – Little Sister. In the next five days visitors of that particular site are going to see two Croatian Playboy models interviewing various celebrities in various stages of undress. Little Sister boasts that each of those two ladies has certain parts of anatomy "three times the size of Marina Bajlo's".

At first stage the site seemed a little bit under construction, but shouldn't be criticised for rushing with this project. In Big Brother itself Marina's legendary state of undress was, deliberately or not, triggering explosion of unrestricted sexuality. Today, the viewers of daily summary witnessed nudity en masse – couple of contestants, both male and female, jumped into Jacuzzi and later paraded in their respective birthday suits. RTL Televizija, while showing ladies' mammary glands in all their glory, electronically blurred certain parets of male contestants' anatomy.

This transformation of Big Brother into sex show continued during the evening. While discussing their respective love lives, some contestants tried very hard to familiarize other housemates with their love for certain unorthodox sexual practices.

Big Brother Croatia Update: A Cup Half Full

One of the most eagerly awaited events of Big Brother Croatia has finally happened. Less than 48 hours ago, Marina Bajlo – the most talked about of all contestants – has removed shirt and showed what overwhelming majority of male fans had been dreaming to see.

Technically speaking, Marina Bajlo is not the first contestant to appear nude on the show. At the very first night Alen Mačinić(Alen Macinic) has briefly revealed some of his private parts. Shortly after that Sanja Kvastek, head-shaven vegetarian had announced that she, unlike other female contestants, wouldn't mind being naked in the shower. She quickly used the opportunity to stand by her word, but her nude images didn't create much of the interest.

Marina Bajlo's nudity on the other hand, was worthy of putting it at their front page.

Just as I have predicted, Marina Bajlo has sharply divided Croatian public. Comments on Internet forums clearly indicate that this divide is based on gender and/or sexual orientation. Marina Bajlo became object of worship among men and object of utter disdain by women - words like "slut" and "sponzoruša" (sponzorusa) began to appear first few minutes after her introduction to the show.

Her (partial) nudity puts new perspective on many of the negative comments. Before this earth-shattering event, she has been branded as "ditzy brainless gold-digger who doesn't have any quality other than her body". When some parts of her anatomy became available for closer inspection, Marina's body suddenly became "ugly" – most of those who dislike found new argument in allegedly insufficient size of her mammary glands.

If Marina Bajlo had those anatomical details in size worthy of this gentleman's filmography or matching those who made Ivana Radovniković (Ivana Radovnikovic) famous, it is quite certain that the negative comments would have been revolving around words like "silicone", "fat" and "big breasts equals no brains".

Considering the immense stakes raised by this event, Friday is going to be very important day for Marina Bajlo and Big Brother Croatia. If she gets nominated, teenyboppers – who tend to decide the outcome of such contest – would make a short work of her. If she doesn't get nominated, she is very likely to win and Big Brother Croatia is going to keep its male half of the fan base.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

There Goes the Neighbourhood

In past decade most of Croatian foreign policy and public attention was directed towards east. 1990s unpleasantness has overshadowed all other issues, including those related to Croatian northern neighbour. However, when compared with the other former federal partners, Slovenia was model example of good neighbour, friend and trusted ally.

But that all began to change with the end of 1990s wars. Slovenia and Croatia have many serious disputes – over the fate of Krško (Krsko) nuclear power plant, Sv. Gera barracks and, last but not least, sovereignty over Piran Bay and exact borderline between two former Yugoslav republics.

The man who symbolises those unresolved issues is Jožko Joras (Josko Joras), old eccentric who owns the house in small Istrian village of Mline. Officially, Mline is on the Croatian side of border, but Joras has some other ideas and tends to express them in the ways that gained a lot of publicity. His clashes with Croatian authorities (who usually try to deal with him diplomatically) made him into some sort of hero for right-wing Slovenian nationalists and made him a candidate for Slovenian Parliament.

This afternoon small group of people, led by two Slovenian Parliament members – Janez Podobnik and Ivan Božič (Ivan Bozic) - refused to show their IDs and other documents to Croatian police during visit to Joras. Police reacted by arresting them. They apparently didn't go quietly and in the ensuing scuffle Podobnik received few blows. The group was brought to local jail where they would spend the night.

Slovenian authorities promptly reacted by recalling ambassador from Zagreb.

This incident is unlikely to develop into major international crisis, though. Sanader's government desperately needs Slovenia to lobby for quick Croatian entry in EU, while mainstream media is going to downplay it as a result of "unfortunate misunderstanding" and "few populist kooks".

But today's affair nevertheless shows that Slovenia and Croatia have potential to settle their differences through violence, just like everyone in this part of the world.

Big Brother Croatia Update: Marina Bajlo Makes It

Marina Bajlo seems to be the first contestant to appear on the covers of Croatian magazines. This achievement is hardly surprising, considering the costume worn by Ms. Bajlo for that particular occasion. Accompanying texts speculate about Marina Bajlo being the very first contestant to engage in certain activities associated with Big Brother.

So far, nothing of the sort happened. There were reports and rumours about certain ladies being caught in their birthday suits by Web cameras, but RTL Televizija refuses to show that offending material in its daily summaries.

Despite contestants' best efforts, RTL Televizija still has some road to travel before achieving Croatian airwaves domination through Big Brother. Show's ratings are stilling trail ratings of state-run HRT.

Marina and the rest of the gang seem to be more successful in slightly improving hit counts in this blog. They won't amount to much, but it is unlikely that the readership of this blog would sink to pre-Severina levels. ation through has some road to travel before establishing

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Big Brother Croatia Update: When There Is Smoke…

So far, the most dramatic event in Big Brother House occurred when Big Brother Task nearly resulted in tragedy. The housemates had to maintain the fire in the yard, but their inexperience in outdoor activities and poor construction conspired to let fire out of control. Thankfully, Saša Tkalčević (Sasa Tkalcevic), biker from Bjelovar quickly intervened with fire extinguisher.

But this is not the worst danger for Big Brother. Today reported that Andrija Hebrang, Croatian deputy prime minister, sent official letter to RTL Televizija threatening with health inspections and 500,000 HRK (68000 €) fines unless contestants stop smoking.

Big Brother Croatia Update: Picture Not Getting Any Clearer

After first two days it is too early to spot dominant trends in the show or in the public relations to it.

However, it is clear that the show's infrastructure leaves much to be desired. Apart from livestream available at the show's website (which went down couple of times today), the only way to see what is going on in Big Brother House is through RTL coverage.

There are three live update – one after midnight, around 3 and around 5 in the morning. Daily highlights are condensed in 1-hour show in the evening. Those highlights are often disappointing. They are poorly edited and many things hinted in teasers are never shown.

For those who watch the show for strictly voyeuristic reasons this show is disappointment due to RTL's decision not to show any nudity. Contestants are allowed to use crude language, though.

It is still early in the game, but I'm close to endorsing one of the candidates. One of them left the best impression through combination of intelligence, superb planning, strong will and hard work.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Hebrang Is Running?

In one of my previous blog posts, I noted that the next presidential race would match 2000 contest in unpredictability and uncertainty, although the winner is more or less certain.

Intense speculations about Sanader's decision whether to field HDZ candidate and have him (or her) trashed by Stjepan Mesić (Stjepan Mesic) were fuelled by HDZ-sponsored opinion poll which was supposed to be conducted these days.

There were also intense speculations about Andrija Hebrang, deputy minister and one of the most unpopular politicians in Croatia, aggressively volunteering for the job. There were also unconfirmed reports about Hebrang's letter to Sanader and claims about opinion polls being "rigged" against former Tudjman's physician and unofficial champion of the hard-line Tudjmanists within HDZ.

The results of poll conducted by Gfk agency were leaked to Croatian media. Apparently, Hebrang was right to a certain degree. Of all HDZ politicians, Sanader has the best chance of competing with Mesić, but the prime minister is unlikely to risk his reputation of winner for the sake of mainly ceremonial presidential post. But Hebrang won the second place, beating Sanader's favourite and close ally Kosor.

Hebrang's good results could be explained with the great deal of respect and popularity he enjoys among rank-and-file members of HDZ and traditional voters of Tudjman's party.

Some other names have been floated as possible last-ditch replacements for Kosor.

Fiasco of Serbia's Berlusconi?

The only Serbian TV station offered by local cable operators in Split is BKTV, owned by Bogoljub Karić (Bogoljub Karic), Serbian business tycoon. Karić has recently directly entered politics by running as an independent candidate on the last presidential elections. He didn't have a chance of winning or even entering the second round, but his 15 % success was at the expense of DSS, moderate conservative party of prime minister Vojislav Koštunica (Vojislav Kostunica). This success apparently led Karić to try something similar by founding his own party called Pokret Snaga Srbije (Strenght of Serbia Movement).

The name of the party is somewhat familiar to those who follow European politics. It is almost the same as Forza Italia, party founded by media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi who would later become prime minister.

Just like Berlusconi, Karić used his media empire to heavily promote his new party. At least this was impression given by BKTV content, stuffed with Karić's promotional clips and extensive coverage of his pre-election rallies.

Judging by the preliminary results of local and regional elections, Karić would have to work much harder before becoming Serbian Berlusconi. In many important cities and municipalities his party barely managed to push 3 % electoral tresshold. This would probably put Karić's men in most of Serbia's local assemblies, but small number of those assemblymen is in sharp contrast with pre-election media blitz.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Big Brother Croatia Update: First Results Are In

Results of first on-line poll related to Big Brother Croatia, available via

"Who do you root for?"

Based on 55 votes

Ozren (11) – 20 %
Marina (8) – 14,55 %
Saša (Sasa) (8) – 14,55 %
Zdravko (8) – 14,55 %
Ana (7) – 12,73 %
Alen (4) – 7,27 %
Krešo (Kreso) (3) – 5,45 %
Antonija (2) – 3,64 %
Filip (2) – 3,64 %
Egle (1) – 1,64 %
Valentina (1) – 1,64 %
Sanja (0) – 0 %

This one is based on not very representative sample. While Sanja's low standing is understandable, Krešo faring worse than Alen is not very realistic.

Germany - Not A Model Any More

It is almost certain that today's regional elections in Germany are going to be either downplayed or completely ignored by Croatian media. Triumph of far right – which broke 5 % barrier and entered regional parliaments – is well-matched by excellent results for former East German Communists. All that occurred at the expense of two major mainstream parties – centre-left Social Democrats and centre-right Christian Democrats.

What happened in Germany is exactly what is not supposed to happen in Croatia. Two major parties –HDZ and SDP – tried very hard to shake off their authoritarian pasts and move to the centre. Sanader embraced minorities, anti-Fascism and renounced Tudjman's hardline nationalism. Former Communist Račan (Racan) embraced free market, slashing of jobs and welfare state.

In the process both parties began to resemble each other. It is very likely that many voters see that the choice between them is not a choice at all. And now even Germany, country that used to be the model of economic miracle and enlightened European democracy, is not going to be utopian model for Croatians yearning for centrist moderation.

Big Brother Croatia – The Day After

Big Brother Croatia is one of those modern cultural phenomena that follow certain pattern. Everyone is disgusted with the low standards of entertainment industry, everyone thinks of the entire concept as dumb and boring, everyone ridicules people who are obsessed with it and everyone feels sorry for those poor souls who wanted to become famous by taking part in it. And everyone is glued to the screen, of course., site famous for breaking Severina's video story, has followed the show with rather mild criticism of the hosts - Daria Knez made few blunders – and their own psychological profile of the contestants. I think that they made predictions about early exits and possible winners:

Ana – she would go far, but not until the end
Ozren – until the very end
Sanja – early exit
Krešo (Kreso) –he would go far
Marina – she would go far
Saša (Sasa) – he would go far, but not until the end
Egle – early exit
Alen – until the end
Antonija – early exit
Filip – first one to go
Valentina – she would stay, but just for a while
Zdravko – he would stay, but just for a while

This prediction doesn't take into account possible alliances that might develop among contestants, as well as tactical voting during nomination stage. For example, Sanja, Egle and Antonija might create faction of Not So Good Looking Girls and try to get rid of Good Looking Girls (Ana, Marina and Valentina). They could target one of them and nominate some cute boy. Teenyboppers, who tend to be the most important electorate in this kind of contests, would vote the Good Looking Giorl out and keep their beloved Pretty Boy in the house.

Of couse, this grand strategy demands tight co-operation and discipline. Sanja might very well monkey-wrench this scheme by being obnoxious and utterly dislikeable to male half of Big Brother House.

Incidentally, official site is up and running.

Big Brother Croatia Live Blogging #5: Off The Air

RTL Televizija has stopped live covering of the events in Croatian Big Brother house.

Apparently, the name of one contestant is "Egle", not Iva.

Another thing is becoming apparent. RTL Televizija has started this project without proper media infrastructure. Website is down, while there isn't any teletext. So, if you want information about the show or TV schedule in general, you'll have to rely on newspapers. Information in newspaper tends to be obsolete. Today's show has been airing at least one hour longer than usual.

Another live update is scheduled in an hour or so.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Big Brother Croatia Live Blogging #4: In The House

All 12 contestants are in the house.

Antonija looks not too pretty and not too ugly. Good combination that may get her very far.

Ana looks much better than during initial presentation. She looks like twin sister of Anđa Marić (Andja Maric).

Official site is down, either the victim of denial of service attack or webmasters being amateurs.

Big Brother Croatia Live Blogging #3: More Candidates

I've apparently missed presentation of a contestant named Antonija. More about that later.

Candidates I spotted are:

Filip – bartender, tennis player, horse owner, rich daddy, Split accent; all that amounts to early exit

Valentina – great Xena-type looks but heavy Herzegovina accent is big "no no"; another candidate for early exit

Zlatko – Aryan looks, martial arts expert, young and "immature" according to friends and relatives; most likely to play the role of troublemaker

Big Brother Croatia Live Blogging #2: Candidates

I've seen first 8 out 12 candidates.

These are my first impressions.

Ana – girl from Šibenik, bland, no impression at all

Ozren – eternal student loser from Zagreb

Sanja – shaven vegetarian loser

Krešo – loser from Zaprešić, quiet, bland, simpleminded, might very well win

Marina Bajlo – pretty blonde from Pula, people will love her, housemates will hate her, phrase "Marina Bajlo nude pictures" most likely to dramatically increase hitcount at this blog

Saša (Sasa) – biker, tattoo artist, rock music fan; he would try too hard and most probably burn, but might get sympathies out of his family man image

Iva – artist from Rijeka, won't get far

Alen – Vin Diesel lookalike from Pazin, soccer freak, tries to harbour gangsta rap image; will get far, but probably wouldn't win

Big Brother Comes To Croatia

This is my first attempt of live-blogging.

I've just seen first glimpses of Big Brother Croatia. First thing I noticed are Boris Mirković (Boris Mirkovic) and Neno Pavinčić (Nino Pavincic). Those two are co-hosts whose job is to bring candidates in and out of Big Brother house. They are familiar faces to RTL Televizija viewers. Mirković hosted Scrolovka dating show, while Pavinčić hosted Veto quiz show. When together, those two look like gay stereotypes from an average Hollywood movie.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Liberal Supporters of Putin's Reichstag

The inevitable aftermath of events like 9-11 or Beslan school massacre is the decline of civil liberties under the pretext of increased public security. Equally inevitable is the opportunistic use of such tragedies for short or long-term political gains. Those who lead countries hit by such atrocities exploit public anger and fear in order to tighten their grip on power.

But it seems that Putin went a little bit too far in trying to exploit Beslan. He proposed sweeping set of constitutional reforms that would make Russian Federation more centralised and his regime even more authoritarian. Regional governors, instead of being elected by local population, are going to be appointed by Kremlin. In order to reduce the number of major political parties, new Duma is going to completely abandon First Past The Post electoral system and be elected solely on the basis of proportional vote.

This was too much even for Bush administration, keen to present Russia as its new and valuable ally in War In Terror. Powell and Bush asked what electoral system has to do with fighting terrorism.

Needless to say, those questions and savage criticism of Putin's plan are going to be echoed by many in the world, including Croatian top political scientists. They would attack Putin as authoritarian who tries to destroy last tiny shred of Yeltsin-era democracy and bring back the bad old Soviet days. According to them, Russia ruled on new Putin's principles, is incompatible with standards embodied by European Union.

But most of those political scholars in Croatia are the same people who spent a decade and half advocating the same things Putin is now implementing in Russia.

Ever since democracy was introduced in Croatia, so many political scientists and commentators have problems with one of its manifestations - high number of different political parties. Before every elections there are complaints about too many political parties making "Croatian political scenes too chaotic". Calls are made for election laws to be changed in order to reduce the number of major parties to "acceptable levels" – two major parties plus one or three minor that could act as king-makers for coalition governments.

Another mantra of Croatian political scientists is proportional representation as the best way to elect people to Sabor (and regional and local assemblies). Proportional representation is lauded for being "fairer", more "in tune with popula will" and, finally, more "European". Since so many EU countries have adopted proportional representation, so must Croatia.

Consensus on the issue of direct elections of local and regional officials isn't that strong, though. Under current system, mayors and county governors are elected by regional and local assemblies. HNS tried to push for the new legislation demanding direct election. Although HNS in its programme and rhetoric fits perfectly into the mindset of liberal EU-worshipping intelligentsia, many from those quarters opposed the initiative. According to them, directly elected mayors and county governors would get "too much power" that could, in turn, transform them into "unanswerable local bosses".

While the criticism of latest disturbing developments in Russia is justified, it would be even more justified if the critics are honest enough to implement such criticism in their own back yard.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Sanader's Men Censor Internet?

According to, Ivica Vidović (Ivica Vidovic), government's commissioner for City of Metković (Metkovic) has demanded removal of, official web page of City of Metković.

Many attribute this decision to the on-line poll being conducted on the page. Elections are to be held in Metković on October 3rd and the latest poll results have indicated huge lead (37,58 %) for independent candidates' list led by Stipe Gabrić "Jambo" (Stipe Gabric "Jambo"), controversial local tycoon and former HDZ official. HDZ was trailing by having only 23,43 %.

The on-line poll apparently didn't bother Vidović on Friday, when Slobodna Dalmacija published results more favourable for HDZ.

Sanader's government denies that it had anything to do with the decision. Vidović's discretionary right over city's website are acknowledged, though.

Vidović became government's commissioner for the city on June 30th, following the official dissolution of Metković City Council. HDZ had the majority in the Council until August 2003 when group of HDZ councillors defected and joined "Jambo".


The page is back on-line, this time without the (in)famous poll. In yesterday's communiqué Ivica Puljan, website's editor, tells how he initially refused Vidović's request to remove the poll from the website and how Vidović didn't listen to his warning about possible negative publicity of such decision. The communiqué also tells about "misunderstanding of Internet".

What is striking about this little scandal is the way Vidović understood website. Instead of simply asking that the poll be taken down, he requested (in his official document) that the whole website goes offline.

But this isn't so striking, considering the way in which most Croatian politicians and public officials approach information technology, best symbolised in Butlerian Jihad against electronic voting in Sabor.

Far From Pitch

Some five years ago Croatian state television was soccer fan's delight. You could watch not only Croatian soccer league but also many other soccer competitions – Premiership, FA Cup, Serie A, La Liga etc. Arrival of Nova TV added Bundesliga (and even some Copa America) to the mix.

But those days are passed. This season Croatian soccer association have used all of its clout to dissuade Croatian TV networks from airing any non-Croatian soccer games (with exception of European club competitions). This forced many Croatian soccer fans to switch satellite and foreign channels in order to enjoy some quality soccer on their TV screens. The reason for this is simple – even the diehard fans of Croatian soccer are finding very difficult to enjoy the sorry excuse for Croatian soccer league.

Quality of the game, players and the league itself has declined over the years. The only matches that seems to matter are those between eternal rivals Hajduk Split and Dinamo Zagreb. And even those don't get publicity because of the soccer. For media the more interesting contest is between those two clubs' fan groups – Torcida and BBB. The rivalry have been slowly escalating, with traditional fights occurring further away from stadiums and with increased levels of violence.

After last years' ambush at Dugopolje, this weekend's game in Zagreb netted not two very spectacular actions. Hajduk fans, in apparent attempt to repeat their last year's achievement, attacked BBB group from Gospić (Gospic). BBB apparently retaliated by trying to torch Torcida vehicles and fans near Žganjer (Zganjer) restaurant in Karlovac. The latter incident was interrupted by few policemen firing shots in the air and thus probably preventing incident from escalating even further.

The issue isn't whether there is going to be fatalities in Croatian soccer war, but when it is going to happen and how many people are going to die. My guess is sooner than later and resulting in much larger numbers of body bags than everyone could have imagined.

I wonder whether Croatian soccer authorities, when faced with Fallujah-style images of charred human remains being branded as trophies but blood-crazed mobs, would still insist on Croatian soccer league being treated as national treasure.

Monday, September 13, 2004


Croatian Ministry of Interiors has issued new instruction for the enforcement of Traffic Act. According to the instructions, 0,1 pro mille of alcohol in blood are going to be tolerated. The official explanation is in "faulty blood alcohol testing equipment" which is too sensitive and often gives false positive results for the small amounts of alcohol.

In doing this, Sanader's government has found an ingenious way to decrease some of the pressure created by widely unpopular and unenforceable law.

Political necessity or not, Sanader's Prohibition still remains legislative disgrace of modern Croatia. Same government that insisted on harshest possible law has now decided not to implement it.

And nobody is mentioning any resignations over "faulty equipment".

Sunday, September 12, 2004

War and Traffic Fatalities

Branko Vukšić (Branko Vuksic), chief political commentator of Nova TV, has lambasted all critics of Sanader's Prohibition. He claims that the law that bans any kind of alcohol consumption before driving is justified and repeats the mantra of "more Croatians being killed in traffic accidents during first 14 years of independence than in entire war". Even if the "wet" argument about only 7 % of all fatalities being caused by alcohol is accepted, that leads to 800 people, which is, according to Vukšić, "unacceptably high". Vukšić concludes his "dry" sermon by saying that one life saved completely justifies the new legislation.

If one life saved justifies such unpopular and practically unenforceable measure, than Sanader should go even further. Why should anyone save only those who might become victims of drunk drivers? What about those who die prematurely because of alcohol-related illnesses? What about those who drown in the seas and rivers because of alcohol consumption before swimming? What about those who die in bar brawls?

In other words, Croatia should adopt what USA had in 1920. And perhaps go even further by banning tobacco, regardless of consequences for the Croatian finances, tourism and crime statistics. Because a single life saved justifies anything.

Personally, I don't see this huge disparity between war and road fatalities as something Croatia should be particularly ashamed of. Croatian roads are bad, police is inefficient, cars are unsuitable for these conditions etc. and many things could be improved. But using relatively low casualties in war as an excuse for legislative folly completely misses the point. Those low casualties only show that Croatia had competent military, good medical services and excellent civil defence when they were most needed.

[ADMINISTRATIVE] Blogroll Changes

I erased all dead links and inactive blogs. If someone, by any chance, thinks that his or her blog should be brought back in, let me know.

I'll put some effort to change the look of blog in near future.


Sitemeter added.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Denial of 9-11

Unlike last year, I'll try to mark the anniversary of 9-11 with few words.

There are many people who worry that 9-11 is going to be forgotten, that it would be denied its significance as epoch-changing event and that any positive lessons of that terrible day are going to be forgotten. Some of those worries are motivated by petty politics (especially in USA today when remembering September 11th seems to favour one party at the expense of other) while other people worry out of genuine concern for the well-being of this planet.

Of course, it was foolish to think that people could grasp the real importance of 9-11 on September 12th 2001. Only the passage of time and subsequent events put everything into proper perspective. Perhaps not enough time has passed.

On the other hand, some people want to move on and refuse to have their lives revolved around those two fallen towers. Other issues seem to be more relevant for this world, some of them not being directly link to 2001 tragedy. Tendency to forget unpleasant events and paint the past in rosy pictures is human and universal. 9-11 simply can't evade this phenomenon.

But I also noticed phenomenon that simply couldn't be attributed to suppression of bad memories. Some people don't try to forget. They try, and try very hard, to deny.

In other words, 9-11 simply didn't happen, or at least didn't have as much effect and importance for the world as most people had believed in 2001.

This denial could be found in two forms.

The first one simply views tragedy of 9-11 as freak incident, result of criminal ineptness and negligence of one accidentally elected presidential administration. Tragic but unique set of circumstances have conspired to result in a tragic and unique event. This event has never happened before and never will. Therefore, in the long run, it is inconsequential. Once the dust settles, the bereaved will start to move on with their lives, new skyscrapers are going to be built and the real issues are again going to be taxes or Nicole Kidman's romantic partner.

Another form of denial is in the new interpretations, conspiracy theories and attempts to shift the ultimate responsibility for 9-11 to anyone but the people who had those flights. Many people in the world are utterly convinced that 9-11 was the work of CIA, Mossad, Pentagon and, last but not least, Bush administration –the tragedy occurred with US government's prior knowledge (and/or) tacit approval .This is partly fuelled by rampaging anti-Americanism that dominates today's world, but the true motive could be found in something less political and tribal.

The real reason why so many point finger towards Americans as the only people responsible for their own national tragedy could be found in universal psychology. 9-11 was traumatic not only for the world's greatest superpower, but also for the people all the world. The world on September 12th 2001 looked much uglier than on September 10th 2001. Most people simply couldn't and still can't deal with the real implication of this event.

I noticed this in trying to filter Croatian media and blogosphere's reactions to Beslan massacre. When trying to explain the unexplainable, fathom the unfathomable and give some rational framework for the disturbing images of naked and bloody children, most chose not to mention words like "terrorists" or "hostage-takers". Most pointed fingers towards Putin. Slobodna Dalmacija used title "Putin's Russian Roulette in Northern Ossetia" Leaves Hundreds of Children Killed". One Croatian blog claims that Putin "decided to solve the crisis with guns" and also claims that there were peaceful alternatives.

Such perspectives Beslan are less motivated with Croatian people's antipathy towards Putin's Russia or criticism (in many ways justified) over their handling of Chechnya. No, they are nothing more than attempt to put some rationality in the events that defy all reason.

Simply, it is easier to imagine Beslan being the part of cold political calculation from Kremlin. It is unbearable to think that there are some creatures who resemble humans but who torture, rape and kill little children in front of whole world in order to achieve some rational aim. Putin is described as "Sauron" and most people would view Beslan in that way rather than accept the world ruled by brainless Orcs.

This perspective on Beslan mirrors the perspective on 9-11. It is unbearable to think that the world's greatest superpower was brought on its knees by 19 men armed with boxcutters. If this happened to mighty Americans, it could also happen to weaker countries or individuals. It is simpler to think of 9-11 as part of some sinister plan than to invest intellectual capacities thinking about random horrors.

This desire, very human and very understandable, should be resisted. Succumbing to fear and paranoia at the expense of life's joys is one thing. Denial of danger in a vain hope that it would go away is another. Both are very wrong. If people find a way to avoid those two traps in years and decades to come, the world will be much better place than it was on September 11th 2001.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Men in Black vs. Men in Black

Pasolini's Salo is more suitable to little children than titles like E.T., Bicentennial Man or Men in Black.

At least this is the conclusion you could make from the latest public sermon given by Marin Barišić (Marin Barisic), Archibihsop of Split and Makarska. While addressing the issue of school violence he said:

There is some cause to that, there are some seductive nymphs and sirens to whom children and adults could hardly resist. Historical films filled with violence don't affect children that much. More harm is done by science fiction films because we are determined more by our future than by our past.

Monica Bellucci has slightly different opinion.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

"Wetting" of Sanader

Gospić (Gospic) is one of 16 Croatian cities and municipalities where the streets are named after Mile Budak. It is the first among them to have that street renamed following Sanader's new policies towards questionable characters from Croatian past.

Sanader, of course, knows that his distancing from far right is going to cost him dearly at the local elections. And even his attempt to put Tito and Communists in the same "anti-totalitarian" legislation is hardly going to win Croatian right-wingers back.

The rest of Croatian electorate, on the other hand, can be at least dissuaded from staging another protest vote against other of Sanader's unpopular policies. The most unpopular among them is, of course, "dry" traffic legislation which already created havoc within Croatian catering industry. In the days following complete ban on alcohol in drivers' blood Croatian restaurant and bar owners reported 30-50 % drop in business.

Today a public petition was being signed at the streets of Zagreb.

Suddenly aware of the law's unpopularity, Sanader used Marko Mlinarić (Marko Mlinaric), minister of interior who comes from wine-loving region of Hrvatsko Zagorje, to drop hints about his version of Prohibition being less strict. Mlinarić announced that the law might be amended before New Year and that some drivers could be allowed to have 0.5 promiles of alcohol in blood. This measure won't apply to drivers younger than 25 years – they would remain "dry".

Monday, September 06, 2004

Two Parties

It is expected that Sanader's HDZ is going to get hit hard on next year's local elections. Series of unpopular moves and policy blunders has disenchanted many of its die hard supporters and motivated anti-HDZ voters.

First major electoral test of HDZ's ability to fight those trends occurred in Slavonian city of Požega (Pozega). According to first results, HDZ got clobbered, winning 29.1 % of the vote. SDP won 44.86 %, while none other party managed to push above 5 % vote limit. Thus SDP would run Požega by itself, having secured comfortable majority in City Council.

HDZ spin doctors were quick to point that HDZ actually increased its vote share compared to previous result.

On the other hand, SDP won extra seats at the expense of HSS and HNS, its former coalition partners.

Yesterday's vote was interesting because of 44,54 % turnout, which is huge for local standards. I guess that people in Požega were so infuriated with HDZ that they went to polls in droves to make a protest by tactically voting for Račan's party.

Požega is middle-sized town and, as such, place where local considerations and personalities often might play much larger role than ideologies and national issues. However, it is uncomfortable to see voters seeing SDP as the only way to punish HDZ. Croatian politics might be reduced to two-party system, and this country has deserved better than to have its version of Republicans/Democrats and Kerry vs. Bush contests.

On Second Thought…

I was thinking whether to erase or edit my previous comment about Beslan. I know that some may misunderstand it and that many would see my words as too harsh and too simplistic.

But the embarrassment over succumbing to emotion and abandoning moderation is still nothing compared to the anger I feel over the events that had me react in such way.

Some react in more positive way, though. Vlasta Pavić (Vlasta Pavic), mayor of Zagreb, invited some 50 Beslan schoolchildren and their teachers to spend holidays in City of Zagreb vacation centre on Adriatic Coast. It is merely symbolic gesture and seriously doubt that it would be accepted or seriously taken into consideration. But this proposal, no matter how ultimately inconsequential, shows that someone at least tries to think in terms of helping those people (and ultimately the rest of the world) to overcome last week's horror.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

[ADMINISTRATIVE] Two Additions to Blogroll

Sauseschritt and Verging on Pertinence added to blogroll.

Never Again

Few times I read the blog post with which I could so wholeheartedly agree.

More About Beslan

I tried to blog about things other than Beslan, partly because thinking about that school was too depressing and partly because I felt that some time had to pass before my opinion could be at least superficially rational.

Unfortunately, even after some time, my thoughts on the matter are deeply affected with dreadful images and whenever I try to think what all that could mean to the people of Beslan I am uncomfortably reminded about the event that had happened in my home town few months ago. I dare not to imagine what this massacre could do to a small town where everybody knows somebody who was tortured and killed in that school.

However, one thing is becoming clear.

I guess (and hope) that majority of this blog's readers would agree with me when I say that those who did it are the inhuman filth that should be wiped off the face of this planet with any mean necessary and no matter what the ultimate cost might be.

And again, despite all previous experiences with the same phenomenon, I am again surprised to see that no evil is evil enough for some people. Too many of them are, either because of political considerations or because of their intellectual laziness, trying to defend the indefensible and justify the unjustifiable.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Zalina's Choice

I guess other bloggers, more informed, more talented, more objective and less overwhelmed by the images on CNN, are going to make much better job of blogging about this day's tragic events in Beslan.

I was trying to blog about Zalina Dzandarova and terrible choice she had to make. I was trying to compare her plight with one of the most memorable scenes in Sophie's Choice. But it seems that someone has made that comparison before.

Yet, this little incident, more than anything else, shows with what kind of evil the world is facing right now.

What happened today is something that goes beyond any politics. No matter what some may think about independence of Chechnya, abuse of human rights, imperialism, War on Terror, Bush vs. Kerry etc. one thing is absolutely clear. What was done towards hundreds of innocent children is lowest of the low. In my part of the world many tried very hard, but never came near that point.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Spoiling the Triumph

You should never underestimate Croatian politicans' ability to mess things up. This is true even for Croatian Olympic triumphs.

First one of those scandals was quietly put under the carpet. Vrdoljak denied saying anything wrong about President Stjepan Mesić (Stjepan Mesic). Mesić, on the other hand, found convenient excuse to stay in Croatia and that left only Sanader to go to Olympic handball final game. It was quiet move, but very shrewd. By not going, Mesić all but confirmed Vrdoljak's story while not burning bridges with world Olympic establishment and not creating serious diplomatic incident.

Mesić's subtlety is style not appreciated by other players in Croatian political arena, including Croatian sports officials. Spectacular homecoming ceremony for Croatian handball team in Zagreb was marked by another scandal. Top officials of Croatian Olympic Committee were denied access on the stage. Later it turned out that Croatian Handball Association officials were unhappy with Croatian Olympic Committee decision to have water polo player as a flag carrier on the opening ceremony in Athens.

For some mysterious reasons, Skelin brothers, silver medallists in rowing, were also denied the access.

But politicians, at least some, also had their comeuppance. Jadranka Kosor, one of the more ambitious and more populist HDZ politicians, tried to take part in Zagreb ceremony. Her appearance on the stage was, however, followed by passionate boos by some 100,000 citizens of Zagreb. I guess that such embarrassment all but kills any speculations about her presidential run.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

New and Old Republican Heroes

I don't have much time to blog these days. But I caught some time to watch pieces of Republican National Convention on TV. The most interesting thing about was, of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger's speech.

Other bloggers are probably going to post gigabytes of text praising or criticising Schwarzenegger or expressing their views on the ultimate impact of his speech. I would only say that I was a little bit surprised.

Before the convention, Schwarzenegger was often being described as "liberal" Republican. What I heard was a speech that advocated militarism and pandered to the American chauvinism. Schwarzennegger even called his old country "socialist" and equating welfare states of Europe with Socialism is favourite pastime of Red Meat Conservative Republicans.

But the biggest shock came when he confessed who had brought him to Republican Party. He mentioned the name that was supposed to be banished forever from Republican conventions – Richard Millhouse Nixon. Yes, Schwarzenegger dared to break decades-long taboo and finally rehabilitate the most notorious president in American history.

Actually, this rehabilitation isn't that surprising. It is only the inevitable phase in the long process of shifting historical perspectives. Moralistic shock that had brought such infamy to Nixon has worn off through years. Post-1974 epoch has brought not only Iran-Contragate but entire inflation of "gates". New generations, brought up in the age of moral relativism, and those who had grown up in 1980s, are more cynical. Compared with some of the characters who had came later, Nixon is less of villain and more of a tragic figure. He went down not because he was particularly corrupt, but simply because he was unlucky. It is very possible that future generations would see Nixon as some kind of tragic, almost Christ-like figure who paid for the sins of entire American political class.

And there is, of course, more universal explanation in the form of nostalgia that paints distant past in rosy colours. Today, when people think of 1970s, they don't think of oil shocks and inflation – they think of cool disco music, cocaine as harmless recreational drug and herpes as the worst thing that could happen to overly promiscuous people. Even certain icons of infamy can benefit from such phenomenon.