People with whom I am proud to have crossed paths
One of them (with me in the photo) is Nikola Božilović, a sociologist from Niš. He has released two excellent studies of popular culture, one of them an exhaustive investigation of what rokenrol means in the history of the world, and the most recent one, Kič kultura, a multidisciplinary explanation of the varieties of false glamour in entertainment, politics, and cultural life. His work asks people to take seriously the things they encounter, no more and no less.
I am also delighted to have made the acquaintance of my brilliant friend's brilliant sister, the theatrical writer Milena Marković. I got a copy of her recent documentary film, Minerska opera, which records her experience in the dying mining town of Bor, where she and a group of local people staged a production of Bertolt Brecht's Threepenny opera. The film records the production, but also the joint efforts of the director and the locals to apply the aesthetic of the opera to their own hopeless situation, as seen through the experiences of two miner-musicians. The romantic guitarist Miki finds beauty in a variety of original and Communist songs ("Comandante Che Guevara," "O bella ciao," and "Bandiera rossa," the last two in a version most clearly derived from their performance by Pankrti), while his friend Lovke wanders around in search of a substitute for the romatic sounds of his youth, but is sure that he likes the aroma of the burning trave from his bottles of rakija. Mrs Ethnia and I (mostly she) did the English subtitles for the film -- we are still not sure that we did this honest work of art justice, but are proud to have had any kind of involvement with its production.
These are just two of the people who, during my last visit to Serbia, made me feel lucky to have some exposure with that part of the world. Sometimes I get the question as to whether I am "pro-Serb" or "anti-Serb." I have no idea what the question means. Actually, I could phrase that better: I know what the questioner thinks it means, but it makes no sense to me. I am in favor of honesty, creativity and hope. I admire the people who offer those things.