A brief greeting from the heartland

There is time for a quick dispatch from Champaign (that's in Illinois, Francesco, though I would love to be in Campania--can you believe that none of the members of Almamegretta live here?). Yesterday was a fine lecture, if I do say so myself, and socializing with people from the excellent Russian, East European and Eurasian Center at the University of Illinois. I never believed that a Friday afternoon talk on the Balkans would fill a room! Today will be a brunch with the graduate students in the program, then back to Boston.

The actual transport portion of travelling remains one of my least favorite activities, hard on the arms and knees. But the pleasure is in arriving. They have a large and tremendously active program (I keep imagining the suspense film in which one of the characters squints at the camera and says, "I've got a Title VI library and I know how to use it."), and the center is located just steps away from an entirely good enough coffee place and a truly outstanding tapas bar. Although the institution itself gives every impression that space aliens came and ported a huge university to the middle of a cornfield, the fine culinary resources seem to assure that interest is high, questions and comments are sharp, and that the importance of the sounds of Jarboli to any discussion of the region is perfectly obvious. The award for toughest question certainly goes to the formidable and beguiling Maria Todorova, but neither faculty nor students lagged behind. It was a pleasure afterward to relax over dinner and good conversation with Donna Buchanan, Zsuzsa Gille, and Judith Pintar. Without my beloved family here, I had the opportunity to get to sleep early and stay asleep late, and now I've got an hour or so before the next encounter to relax with a new manuscript by the Nishville sociologist Nikola Božilović.

This may be the last moment I get to compute in peace before Monday, so I can join the readers of this blog in the joy that accompanies the return of the mysterious Mr Teekay.


Just returned from couple days in Germany's ugliest town (want to take a guess? No, it's not in the east) after spending 36 days (if I counted correctly) on my Big Balkan Reunion Tour. In fact, Germany's ugliest town looked a lot like what I imagine some forgotten industrial corner of Belarus might have looked in the mid-1980s. (Never mind that this town is supposedly rich and all that.) While I was away: Croatia gets membership talks with the EU. Turkey gets membership talks with the EU. Carla Del Ponte makes best friends with Kostunica and Sanader. Serbia gets SAA talks with the EU. RS is bribed into "agreeing" on police reform. Bosnia gets SAA talks with the EU. Anything I forgot?


A brief blog silence

I am heading off tomorrow morning for a brief guest gig in lovely Urbana-Champaign, so there will probably not be new posts here before Monday. Enjoy a fine weekend, and visit the blogs on the link list to the right.


The Pink empire, more interesting than ever

The Catholic church owns 26 percent of the shares in the Slovenian broadcast outlet TV Prva. Now the Belgrade-based RTV Pink would like to buy the other 74 percent. Pink is of course well known for its turbo-folk promotions, its echt-popular films and series, and of course its glitzy and model-filled "entertainment" program. It has been on the Bosnian market for a while, and in Serbia has recently positioned itself to compete with the slumbering state-owned giant RTS for a shot at dominating the news market. The church might not be so delighted to enter into a partnership with Pink, as the two institutions have some diverging thematic interests. But the results would certainly be interesting.


Gentle and reassuring words of cultural sociology

For anybody who cares to read it, I gave an interview last week to the talented young journalist and writer Nedim Sejdinović. Have a look at his site: in addition to conversations with me, he has also talked to interesting people.

Large scale crime, large scale complicity

There is a little problem with the "individualization" of gross violations of international law. It turns out that murdering thousands of people over the course of a few days, then covering up the evidence is a large technical undertaking. It requires administrative arrangement, technical resources of various types, and the engagement of personnel. How many people? According to the report filed today by the Republika Srpska Srebrenica Working Group, 19,473 "immediate participants" are identified, with as many as 25,083 involved in the events in and around the operation. The larger figure includes 22,952 people under the command of the RS defence ministry, 34 contract drivers and 209 people under the command of civil defense, as well as 1,988 people under the command of the RS interior ministry, "including 15 members of the 'Scorpions' unit" (Note of caution: my calculator says that when the numbers from FENA's report are added up, the total is 25,183, not 25,083). Of the military participants, all but 268 have been identified by name. The names, among which are the names of people still working in public institutions, have not been made public. But aside from opening up the possibility of new prosecutions against people who know very well who they are, the report also underlines the fact that killing on the scale carried out around Srebrenica in July 1995 cannot be done without considerable commitment of resources, planning, and the involvement of institutions.


Ambulatory ambalaža

If you are an admirer of clever technology and small vehicles, then the new "concept design" urban car by Nissan is pretty amazingly cool. In the East Ethnian region, though, they might want to think of marketing it under some name other than "Pivo."

Ne magija istim žarom

When his performance in Belgrade was announced, we reported that David Copperfield had given rise to some Great Expectations. They were not to be. If the review and the response from well-known members of the audience reported in today's Blic are any indication, his show was a disappointing collection of card tricks and the tricking of ducks, with some video recordings of more impressive feats he had carried off earlier. The handbag went quicker than the eye.