No news of a great musician

An earlier post noted with pleasure that Fats Domino had been rescued from the wreckage of New Orleans. However, it seems that the great Alex Chilton is still missing. As much as I love musicians, he is only one of the over 17,000 people listed at the New Orleans Times-Picayune's missing persons site.

Thanks to Coyu for the post that informed me.

Update, 5 September: Alex Chilton's family reports that he is safe, according to the newspaper site and a fan site.

A minor technical change

I have altered the settings for comments very slightly. Now when you open the window to comment on a post, a box will appear asking you to copy some letters that appear as a distorted graphic. This should not be a very big burden for anybody, and I want you to know that your comments are certainly welcome. I did this not because of people who write to disagree -- anybody is welcome to disagree (though comments that contribute nothing may well be deleted, standard rules of discourse apply). The reason I did this was that I hoped to control the automatically generated comments which appear from time to time directing readers to some advertising site or another. These are, it seems, the blog equivalent of spam mail. What the comment box does is assure that there is really a living human being at the keyboard. I know that it is a bit of a silly burden, but I hope it will not discourage anybody.

A short review, two years late but positive

Vinko Brešan achieved broad popularity for his two comedies Kako je počeo rat na mom otoku and Maršal. Today we got a chance to watch his first «serious» film, 2003's Svjedoci (based on the novel Ovce od gipsa by Jurica Pavičić, and the first film on which Vinko Brešan did not collaborate with his father, the great comic novelist Ivo Brešan), at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.

Much of the discussion of the film has had to do with its political orientation, as an instance of Croatian artists examining war crimes committed by Croats. Drax points out that it was controversial for that reason even while it was being filmed. I like the description of the film by Mima Simić and Iva Radat as «carefully treading the minefield of responsibility and emphasizing the humanity of both sides.» This is the «crime story» of the film, not much of a mystery in the details: a botched bombing lands a group of reservists in trouble. As the effort to cover it up comes to involve a greater number of institutions, the emotional ties between the participants break it apart.

The author of the novel on which the film is based is more modest about its political implications, though. Jurica Pavičić characterizes it as a «description of the social, mental and whatever other kind of reality there is here.» This is the level on which the film really succeeds. A team of outstanding actors subtly shows the conflicting pressures that work on the characters, refusing to let the «good» ones be overly good, the «bad» ones be one-dimensionally bad, or any of the familiar stories about war and ethnicity take front stage. The worst ones find themselves paralyzed by their own doubts and by guilt, and the best are overpowered by their own weaknesses. The honesty and complexity of the story is foreshadowed in the opening sequence, showing different sets of cars heading in different directions through Karlovac, each of them with a purpose connected to that of the others, but with their drivers unaware of this and never noticing one another. There are critics (like Jakov Kosanović in Slobodna Dalmacija) who see the final scene as over the top and too formulaic for the narrative. Without giving anything away to the people who have not seen the film, I would disagree — its symbolism suggests that easy conclusions cost an arm and a leg.

I am inclined to agree with Andjelo Jurkas who says that that the film «functions perfectly» The film did get a review in the Boston Globe which isn't much, but is mildly amusing for its overly literal translations. Pamela Biénbozas wrote an interesting observation of the film's psychological dimensions for FIPRESCI. For a review from someone who didn't like it, try Jesus Quintana. Have a look at Dnevnik's interview and Cross Radio's interview with Brešan if you like. For a nice overview of recent films from the region, this analysis by Andrew James Horton may be interesting.


One piece of good news

Worry had been widespread that the great Antoine "Fats" Domino was unaccounted for in the destruction of New Orleans. AP is now reporting that the 77-year old musician has been rescued and is now out of the city.

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His manager Al Embry (who lives in Tennessee) confirms his rescue, and his daughter Karen Domino White (who lives in New Jersey) identified him from a photograph of a person being rescued but has not yet spoken with him.

A great cultural legacy is still being lost. Hear a discussion of it from Open Source.

On understanding frustration

As they acknowledge the failures to provide aid to people killed, injured and dispossessed by Hurricane Katrina, politicians will often offer a line about understanding the frustration of people who are receiving no assistance. Speaking on Larry King's interview program, CNN correspondent Anderson Cooper has a reply:
KING: Anderson Cooper in Biloxi, Mississippi and you were an angry man today, Anderson at what?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I wouldn't say I'm angry, you know. I think I'm tired of hearing the politicians say that, you know, they understand the frustration of people down here. To me, you know, it's not frustration. It's not that people are frustrated.

It's that people are dying. I mean there are people dying. They're drowning to death and they drown in their living rooms and their bodies are rotting where they drowned and there are corpses in the street being eaten by rats and this is the United States of America.

It's not a question of me being angry. People down here are frustrated and angry and it goes beyond just frustration. It's, you know, there are a lot of people who listen to you on satellite radio who are down here who are able to, you know, get some radio and they're -- you know they come up to me and they tell me if I hear them one more time, you know, congratulating each other and thanking each other for all their efforts, the politicians, you know.

They would like them to come down here and roll up their sleeves and get in the tent and help out with some people because there's a lot of need here and there's not much help. I mean there are a lot of hardworking people here from FEMA and the national government and God bless them but I got to tell you there is a great need here, Larry, and it is shocking to see firsthand.

Meanwhile, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, does not understand anybody's frustration. Radiating empathy, he declared, "It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed." The mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, observed that federal officials "don't have a clue what's going on down here." To which the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael Brown, responded, "I understand the mayor's frustration."

Ko linkuje, taj može biti i linkovan

Just a quick heads up to let you know that the link list has been updated for the first time in a while. Some wonderful new stuff was added, some old sites that seem to have become inactive have been removed. Of course, in the likely event that anybody knows of any delightful sites that have escaped my attention, please let me know.

A disaster caused by humans

Anybody who has been following the horrifying detsruction of lovely New Orleans has been able to observe two catastrophes. One was an unavoidable disaster caused by forces of nature which could be to some degree foreseen, but could not be controlled. The other is being caused by a failure of responsible agencies to anticipate and respond to the predictable consequences. I often enjoy the political satire of Patriotboy, but today he is serious, and gets it just about right. He has posted a call for donations, respond if you can.

Update: The Patriotboy blog is back to its previous form, and the page mentioned above is archived here.

When it was fab

Coming out next week, Kako je bio rokenrol is a collection of the writings of the late legendary music writer Branko Vukojević in the magazines Džuboks, Start and Ritam, as well as critical essays for Politika, between 1975 and 1991. The collection is edited by Goranka Matić, Dragan Kremer, Momčilo Rajin and Predrag Popović. The presentation will be 6 September at Kinoteka in Belgrade at 12:00, and speakers will be comic artist Saša Rakezić, film director Milutin Petrović, multimedia artist Uroš Djurić, music journalists Dragan Ambrozić and Predrag Popović. The publisher, Drustvo ljubitelja popularne kulture, has posted a web page with information, photos, reviews, and two chapters for download.


Not completely successful

After another in a long series of violent attacks on civilians in Kosovo, the assessment of US Institute for Peace analyst Daniel Serwer is that "it is a fact that the international community is not completely successful in the protection of minorities." Which would certainly be one way of putting it.

Too much future

Not too well observed in its time, a new retrospective exhibition is shedding some interesting light on the old East German punk rock scene. Observes the organiser of the exhibit, Michael Böhlke zvani Pankow, "In retrospect, I was probably more of a hippy."


It's a love thing

The testimony of Vojislav Šešelj is continuing at the Hague, for some reason. In the context of denying the large-scale killing at Srebrenica, he claimed that it was a massive execution of prisoners of war. Since this is also a crime, if his testimony were to be taken seriously by anybody as evidence it would not help any of the people charged. Just to make his statements less useful to the indictee in whose defence (!) he is testifying, he claimed that the Serbian government provided transportation for the victims.

But the high point may have been when he repeated his claim that the major national groups involved in the Bosnian conflict were all Serbs of different religions. The accused asked him whether such claims spread hatred, to which Šešelj replied, "No, I spread love by telling the Serb Muslims that the joint state should be restored." Voli i on Vas.


Teaching with the web

A post on web teaching by Sepoy at Chapati Mystery has got me thinking again about ways to use this huge information and communication resource to enhance teaching. In the past I have tried such campus-based solutions as a course mailing list, though this is a bit one-directional. I have also tried using the somewhat more intuitive Yahoo service for a dedicated course mailing list, though I found it was a lot of extra work without a clear benefit. Piggybacking onto an existing topical list was nice as a source of topics, but not everyone was motivated to take advantage of it. Our campus offers a "discussion board" feature through the Blackboard system, but it is one of those institutional software packages that is 90% filter and requires seven steps to do what could easily be done with one.

Sepoy makes the important point that "the instruments and tools of pedagogy should not stop when the time limit of the class is over. Discussion and interaction can and should take place outside of the classroom." I think everybody understands that as the carrot, but then carrots do not always get eaten. So up comes the question of the stick: "I don't think blogging as it exists in the public sphere is the same as blogging within the classroom environment. It has to be structured - rigidly so, perhaps. There should be reasons to blog and reasons to comment and reasons to do group-work. That is, graded assignments." This has always been a source of confusion for me, the fact that so little gets done at institutions if it is not explicitly required. However, I have no doubt that it is true. I think that to really inegrate the potential of blogging technology into teaching, there has to be some element that is obligatory, and subject to receiving or failing to receive a reward.

I am giving myself a semester to consider how I want that integration to work. In the meantime, I've begun a new blog mainly for the purpose of keeping access to all of the stuff I run across that looks useful for discussing or illustrating a point. It may become a regular part of my teaching, may become a more public resource, or may die a natural death. Whatever the outcome, people who are interested in sociology of media may care to have a look. Your experiences and suggestions (also anecdotes and jokes) about bringing the classroom and the internet together are welcome, of course.

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