The official state siledžija, although he was armed and financed by another state entirely, is the late Željko Ražnatovic, known to many as Arkan. About this last one, my friend Chris Stewart has just published a biography. I saw an earlier version of the text, and found it to be one heck of a story. Maybe you will enjoy it too.
towering above me! For it had three faces;
one was in front, and it was fiery red;
the other two, as weirdly wonderful,
merged with it from the middle of each shoulder
to the point where all converged at the top of the skull
with apologies to the great John Ciardi
I have not read the book and do not expect to read it. Life is too short for tasteless meals, bad books and ill-fitting shoes. Some other folks have been reading it with much of the expected hilarity that comes from the wide gap separating the author's sense of his own intellectual scope from the evidence available on the page.
Still, the line from the flap copy struck me: "The quintessential liberal fascist isn't an SS stormtrooper; it is a female grade-school teacher with an education degree from Brown or Swarthmore." You will probably neither know nor care why the author thinks he knows so much about (at least female) grade-school teachers. But he certainly knows nothing about education. At Swarthmore College, and I suspect also at Brown as at every other institution in the region, a student cannot get an education degree. They can major in a recognised discipline with an accompanying concentration in education, after which, if they want to teach in a public school, they will take another programme to get an education certificate. The reason for this is state policy: education boards do not want to hire teachers with education degrees, but teachers who have demonstrated mastery of an empirical field in addition to receiving a separate education qualification (private schools will take teachers without the education certificate, but require them to have a masters' degree). This fact is pretty much known to everyone who has worked in higher education or passed through one of its institutions, if they were paying attention.
Ordinarily it would not be a big deal for a person not to know about the undergraduate programme at a small college in Pennsylvania. And ordinarily posh institutions would be fair game (when I was an undergraduate at Swarthmore, people still remembered Spiro Agnew having called the place "the Kremlin on the Crum" -- but then at least Mr Agnew was not wholly ignorant, he knew the name of the creek that passes by the campus). But there are exceptions when: 1) a person is claiming omniscient knowledge he obviously does not have, 2) a person is building a whole theory on an insulting image that has no basis in fact, and 3) a person is making a sweeping characterisation of a group of people about whom he knows nothing.
The book in question is by an author who has 214 entries in the catalog of Narodna Biblioteka Srbije. This means that: 1) he is rather more productive (fecund? logorrhaeic?) than your humble correspondent, and 2) a perusal of the list is bound to offer a couple of opportunities to give a bitterly ironic smile.
Update: In a freakier take on immigration today, what is with stories about swan theft? This is a new one.
Update II: Informed sources tell me that the legend about immigrants roasting the delectable swans of London's parks can be traced to another time and place -- Vienna in the 1950s, when it was launched against Roma from Romania. Apparently it makes its way to be used against people from Slovakia and Poland in London in the 1970s and 1980s, but these days it is a stereotype against Kosovo Albanians. As far as anyone knows, there is no evidence that anybody has ever actually nabbed and cooked a swan, regardless of the nationality of the person or birdie.
A sociologist is a worthless job. You can find communist-leaning sociologists. Fascist ones. Feminist ones. Chauvinist ones, and so on, and the libraries have whole sections on their theories on society, and so many of them differ in their views. This is the first time I ever heard a sociologist giving evidence in so-called trial. The prosecutors are scraping the bottom of the barrel here because where else can evidence of someones opinion be used to convict someone? What a joke.Professor Oberschall was engaged as a witness along with Yves Tomić (not a sociologist, but a good fellow all the same), who was identified by the court as "Ives Tomić" and by the accused as "Yves Thomas." Mr Šešelj has his own thoughts on the length of expert reports.
So, did you finally get your phone service?
Amazingly enough, I was ready to give up, to send a note to my friends at BT saying thanks for your effort but they were not sufficient to overcome your compulsion to constant repeated failure and let's drop it, I don't want to be your customer after all. Then I got back from my weekend away, and lo and behold, there was a working phone line in my flat! On a Sunday night, which means somebody worked after 5 on a Friday! Not a drop of the promised internet, but a working phone line, yes.
A weekend away? You did not simply stew in your misery?
Stew in my misery indeed. Friends from Leicester came to London where we watched a thoroughly mediocre theatre performance with friends from Canada, followed by a fine Turkish dinner. Then I made my first trip out of London to spend the weekend with them. Many gastropubs were sampled. The castle of Lady Jane was visited. There were places Azra would have enjoyed and places Lajoš would have enjoyed. Wine was drunk. Conversations were dragged out. It was delightful. A boy cannot do battle with bureaucracy day in and day out, you know. Harumph.
Gastropubs, you say?
It's some sort of English cultural thing. They're pubs, but they are operated by gastroenterologists. The effect on the customer is strangely reassuring.
You are getting a reputation as a battler with bureaucracy. Is this deserved?
It is undesired. What can I say, normal people get smacked with a hammer in the head, they fall unconscious. In me it awakens this nagon of persistence that must always be lurking behind my usual sybaritic laziness. This is probably a personality defect. Pure laziness would doubtless make me a more attractive human being. But then, without it, I would not have spent ages trying to figure out turbofolk, or three days making cassoulet, or most of the other things that are in the end sources of pleasure.
Dismissive of so many victories?
As my grandmother would say, victories schmictories, maybe it would kill them to do their job right.
So, is this it? Are your bureaucratic sagas done with, and can we hope that at some point you will give us something interesting to read?
This bureaucratic saga is not done with yet , sadly. I have a phone but no broadband. Then there is the whole matter of my seething dissatisfaction with Barclays bank. But I do sense an end to it, indeed. And this may do it for a while, but there will be additional bureaucratic treats for faithful viewers of Eastethnienders in the near future, including:
- Getting visas and entry clearance for the rest of the family, and a nice British job for one distinctly non-British worker
- Bringing a doggie onto this island which proudly claims (on the Defra web site, no less) to have been "rabies-free for a thousand years" (q.v. Miroslav Krleža)
- Enrolling one brilliant girl into one excellent secondary school
But yes, indeed, I will promise you more material on Balkan politics. Heaven knows it is more fun to be known for writing about that than for whining about feckless agencies and corporations.
So, all this complaining, do you even like the UK?
Like it? The pubs have "guest ales." There is fresh salmon on every corner. The halal butchers have delicious lamb (shanks! get shanks!) and the posh ones have tasty critters every day. The comical radio broadcasts leave me delighted on a regular basis. There are dramatic radio broadcasts based on the Russian revolution in which the proletarian characters are given Northern accents ("Ere come the effin Mensheviks, blimey!"). There are fascinating things to read over people's shoulders on the Tube. How could I possibly fail to like the UK?
Well, all right then. Hope you will do.
Appy to do. Cheers, mate.
Working hypothesis: belatedly picking up the spirit of rebranding that once led a previous government to try to remove from the landscape every single pretty thing, BT has decided to repackage itself as the one-act play that Franz Kafka never wrote.
In the meantime, how does a poor boy remain in touch with the world? It is not easy, but one way is by sitting in my office, where today I received a quick lesson in the comparative culinary thrills of London and New York from a well-versed student. Another is by leaving to get a sandwich from the student takeout place, where another student introduced me to the works of his very charming heavy metal band.
BT's promise that telephone and internet service would begin yesterday was of course not met.
Apparently similar issues have been faced by Cory Doctorow, Brian Turner, someone named Matt, and Bob Jones, along with, I am sure, countless others.
I went last night to a lecture, which was really pretty good. At the reception afterward, I met a young couple, both of whom are former students at my present institution. They said that they had met, and their understanding for one another deepened, when they were given the job of preparing a joint presentation on Stjepan Radić.
No, I didn't think so either.
He says that he is “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really”, and I know that this “hot potato” is going to be difficult to address. His hope is that everyone is equal, but he counters that “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true”. He says that you should not discriminate on the basis of colour, because “there are many people of colour who are very talented, but don’t promote them when they haven’t succeeded at the lower level”. He writes that “there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so”.To the surprise of absolutely nobody but Watson himself, the remarks resulted in charges of racism. Institutions in England, where he was on a speaking tour to promote his book Avoid Boring People: And Other Lessons from a Life in Science, have cancelled his appearances. Then he got booted from his job, and has now fled England with his vestigial tail between his legs.
So as my dear friend would say in response to this sort of situation (actually: almost any situation), WTF? These are ideas that have been abandoned by everyone except a few professional provocateurs. Even if they were viable ideas, the relationship between "intelligence" and almost anything else -- such as skill, judgment, charm, decency -- is sadly pretty much nonexistent. And to see an eminent scientist going around promoting them, apparently not having dedicated a second's thought to their sources or implications? Has the world turned into the sort of place where people put fruit on pizza?
There are a couple of things going on here. The first of them is the constipated belief that a willingness to put forward ill-informed, foolish, extreme or merely offensive hypotheses can somehow be confused with "openmindedness." This belief is certainly widely held, especially among people who have never been compelled to confront the consequences of what they say or submit it to review (or who, like Watson and perhaps Marlon Brando, have been exempt from review for years because of their celebrity). The second is an approach more confined to intellectuals working in narrow fields -- I would be happy to say that this is a syndrome only among physical and natural scientists but of course it is not -- in which the criteria of that field are taken as the only ones that matter, even with regard to topics that have nothing to do with the field. In my research area, maybe this is best represented by lawyers' views on history and morality (sorry lawyers, but think about it, you wouldn't want these things constructed according to legal principles either). And for Watson, of course, it is treating highly dubious and very much predetermined findings about "intelligence" as though they were falsifiable lab results.
To offer a concrete example: can we attribute Watson's casual and ignorant racism to his DNA? It would be hard to think of any way that this could be achieved. In Watson's own words, "I cannot understand how I could have said what I am quoted as having said." Rather, it is a result of his warped values and intellectual laziness, encouraged by a scientific community that subjects some of its members to peer review while treating others as if they were peerless.
It is certainly true, for reasons having not only to do with genetics, that nobody can control how they are born. Those people who are very fortunate can influence, if not how they die, at least how they might be remembered when they do. This might be elementary, even if not to Watson.
- All those people who say the food is bad here are gravely mistaken. In particular, the Phoenicia Market on Kentish Town Road is about as close as we mortals come to paradise. There is also the place with the fine looking fishies, but it always seems to be closed.
- This idea that Americans have that other countries have cheap and efficient rail service has been thoroughly debunked, at least if we take England and Serbia as our test cases.
- Everybody has the most adorable accent.
- I must acquire the middle class male uniform, which would seem to consist of a) striped suit, b) blue shirt, c) no tie, and d) one of those mobile phone contraptions that people strap to their heads.
- The pub is the living room of the neighbourhood. This is a good thing.
My own feelings on the campaign to take the guy off the net are a bit mixed. I don't care for Nazis even a little, and my position on censorship is that it should be reserved for that small category of things that can be proven to be dangerous. Legal standards are vague (for an interesting application to an obscenity case see the exchange between the minority and the majority of the US Supreme Court in Miller v California from 1973). On balance I would have to argue that the "redeeming social importance" of sites by Mr Davidović and people from groups like his is that they provide a source of information about these groups. Of course Google (which runs Blogger, where both this blog and Mr Davidović's blog are hosted) is not a government institution, and is legally free to publish or refuse to publish anything it chooses.
It might be interesting to note what the neofascists intended to do: since the antifascists were going to commemorate a monument, they planned to put flowers on a monument to the nineteenth century politician Jaša Tomić. Tomić was not such a major figure: aside from murdering a political opponent, he is known for trying to lead an independence movement against Austria-Hungary and for being a founder of the Radical party in Vojvodina. There is a monument to him because the Radicals control the municipal government. There is also a village named after him, which was flooded not so long ago.
The reason the Nacionalni stroj cares about Jaša Tomić one way or the other is because of an old screed he wrote which gives a sort of eclectic apologia for antisemitism, where he blames the problems of Serbia on old-style market economics, Benjamin Disraeli, and a bunch of other vaguer things. The tradition of domestic antisemitism in Serbia is pretty thin: aside from this text, there is basically a stringing together of bad translations of religious texts by Vasa Pelagić, and not much else until Nikolaj Velimirović wrote something up while hanging out for a few months in the SS barracks at Dachau waiting for his pal Ljotić to get him sprung.
It is a good thing that people managed a public demonstration against the resurgence of fascism. I have had a couple of minor encounters with the members of these neofascist groups with bombastic names, and the greatest threat probably does not come from these small packs of scared teenage boys, whatever they may symbolise. But then fascist movements have never come to power on their own, it has always happened through the indulgence of more "respectable" politicians who were cynical and clueless.
Irony, anyone? The person who was minister of information for Milošević in 1996 and 1997 is now the director of RTS, where the famous bulldozer was directed in its day. But you knew that.
All right now, from the top: 1) my name is not "Applicant," 2) if you did not have a clue what to do with documents that you requested, such as the original certificates for my degrees, why did you ask for them?, 3) are you aware of the trust that is placed in you when people send valuable personal documents, and what is implied by your cavalier attitude toward that trust?, 4) is there special training a person can undergo to achieve a level of incompetence so monumental?Dear Applicant
Your letter and original documents have been returned to us undelivered.
We are having trouble sending these out to you as the package is so big.
Would it be possible for you to arrange a courier to collect these? We will hold them here until we receive a response from you.
[name mercifully redacted by me]
Having said all that, offering information at all is probably a step in the right direction. Offering timely and useful information with a degree of interactivity and pointers to additional information would be a bigger step. Real dialogue and openness would be too much to hope for, and then the source providing it would be a different source altogether.
This came in an article about how Novi Sad mayor Maja Gojković has distanced herself from the party since taking office, but it does sound like Mr Nikolić is speaking in the general sense. Is it time for people to ask, finally, which side they are on?
An interesting animal I hadThe practice, I think, is to tag other bloggers with an instruction to respond. I think what I will do instead is just encourage people to respond if they feel so inspired.
A: Lajos, my cute little Schipperke.
He is always up to something. He is a little naughty. A dog may not be so interesting by “type of animal” standards, but by doggie standards he is very interesting.
He is also about as well travelled as any other dog around. He has been trans-Atlantic 8 times so far, and he’ll be continuing to go trans-Atlantic for quite a while. He has been driven across the USA. He has been to many countries in Europe. Pretty much everywhere I go, he goes with me.
E: We used to have a horse named Amigo. Although his name meant friend, in fact Amigo had kind of a mean sense of humour. When we would take visitors for a ride on the beach, whoever was riding Amigo would get the surprise of breaking away suddenly from the group, running out into the water, and getting thrown in. This was the only kind of nestašluk in which he ever indulged.
An interesting animal I ate
A: Ostrich. I had it in a goulash, and it tasted great! Ostrich goulash was my favorite food for quite a while.
E: I love the Bambi paprikaš at Lovac, and also at the Čuburska lipa restaurant which is operated by Josip Broz, who shares a name with his famous grandfather.
An interesting animal in a museum
A: In the Harvard Museum, there is this enormous turtle/tortoise (I’m not sure which) shell from a prehistoric turtle/tortoise. It’s big enough for an average person to climb in and move around comfortably (though they wouldn’t be able to stand up). I always love seeing it.
E: The monkey house at the Belgrade zoo is always a treat. Partly for the monkeys, which are always up to something sort of humanesque. But it is best when there are a lot of people there, who try to get the attention of the monkeys from the other side of the glass. It is not always possible to tell which animal is on display for which.
An interesting thing I did with or to an animal
A: I gave my dog a swimming lesson. We would go to the beach and drop him in the water. He would immediately doggie-paddle (ha-ha) towards the shore. We’d have to ambush him, and then he would go swimming around, sneezing in protest. Eventually, though, he learned to like it. I wish he’d known that from the beginning!
E: I don’t know why this question keeps giving me images of dissecting frogs and the like in high school biology. That job always disgusted me, everything from the implicit cruelty and pointlessness to the smell. Strangely, when I put herbed butter underneath the skin of a chicken, it doesn’t bother me a bit.
An interesting animal in its natural habitat
A: There’s a type of frog that lives in Australia that makes its nice cozy home in a toilet. I think that’s about as interesting a natural habitat as you can get! Before toilets were invented, they had to make do with murky swamps.
E: I don’t know how interesting they are, but they have a lot of charm and are nicely suited to the limits of their environment: prairie dogs!
- Friday -- Receive HSMP visa approval letter; fill out online application for entry clearance, gather documents
- Saturday -- Ship off application, documents and passport to UK consulate in New York
- Monday -- Receive confirmation from Federal Express that materials have been delivered
- Tuesday -- Receive e-mail from consulate confirming that materials have been received and offering an estimate of how long the process takes
- Wednesday -- Receive e-mail from consulate notifying me that approval has been given, telling me that materials have been sent back to me, and giving a tracking number
- Thursday -- Receive passport with entry clearance and return of my documents
Next up is to confirm travel plans and get those students in London taken care of.
Addendum: Marko Jakšić is no relation to Duško Jakšić or Boža Jakšić, both of whom merit the highest admiration. And Goran Davidović does not want you to call him Führer, please.
14 September 2007Only hope (also, glory) stands between me and a positive decision. We shall see.
Highly Skilled Migrant Programme
PO Box 3468
Sheffield S3 8WA
Re: Request for review of application [right, I'm going to give you my case number]
To the members of the HSMP team:
I am in receipt of your letter of 28 August 2007 informing me of the decision on my application for an HSMP visa [secret magic number]. I believe that the HSMP team has reached an incorrect decision based on misinterpretation of the documents provided, and am therefore requesting reconsideration of the application for the reasons set out below.
The decision was based on an interpretation of the documentation I provided under the section “Previous earnings.” Allow me to address the contentions made in your letter of 28 August individually:
1. The letter claims that "the evidence does not corroborate the wage slips." It is difficult to follow the logic of this contention, since the wage slips are evidence, and their function is to corroborate, not to be corroborated. The wage slips do establish that the income claimed was earned, and the letter does not claim otherwise. It is unclear what is meant by corroboration in this context, since there exists no other evidence of what is contained in the wage slips aside from the wage slips themselves, which were provided to your office in accordance with the guidance notes for application. They clearly set out the amount of my salary for each fourteen-day period covered by each wage slip, the amount deducted for state and federal taxes, payments into federal and private pension schemes, medical insurance, and the amount deposited into my bank account.
2. The letter claims that I "have not provided an original tax return that corroborates individual earnings for the full period claimed." Here again it is not possible to discern from the letter what the HSMP team found to object to regarding my tax return. The only basis I can use for response is the half sentence offered in the letter. What follows is my detailed response based on what the HSMP team’s conclusion might have been, as derived through an exegesis of the half sentence in the letter:
a) Is the tax return original? Our tax return was filed electronically, which is done by an increasing number of people in the United States as it accelerates the process, simplifies the procedure of filling out the famously complicated forms, and reduces the potential for error. This practice is explicitly encouraged by the Internal Revenue Service as a matter of policy. Since the entire process takes place through electronic transactions, there is no "original" paper document. Rather, when the procedure is completed, the software produces a PDF file with the completed return, one copy of which is sent electronically to the Internal Revenue Service for processing, and one copy of which is downloaded to our computer. If we had filed our taxes using paper documents, we would still not have the original document as this would have been sent to the Internal Revenue Service, and we would have saved a copy for ourselves, as is the normal procedure. The copy which taxpayers save for their files is accepted as evidence of income and taxes paid by every existing relevant institution, including banks, mortgage brokers, and the Internal Revenue Service itself.
b) Is the document a tax return? The document that was provided is what is called a “tax return” as defined by the US Internal Revenue Code, and is referred to as such by taxpayers, accountants, banks, other financial institutions, and the Internal Revenue Service itself. There exists no other type of document which is referred to universally as a “tax return.” Under the definition in the Guidance Notes for the HSMP application, the document provided is also a tax return. The obvious and unavoidable conclusion is that the document is a tax return.
c) Is the tax return individual? There are three options available to taxpayers filing returns in the United States: they may file an “individual” return, file as “married filing jointly,” or they may file as “married filing separately.” The option of filing an “individual” return is not available to taxpayers who are married. My wife and I filed a joint tax return. This is what is done by the overwhelming majority of married couples, particularly if they want to take advantage of joint tax deductions for charitable contributions or child allowances, or if they own property in common. As the status of “married filing separately” involves twice the paperwork, it is generally used by people in less common circumstances, such as married partners who have widely differing individual property holdings or individually owned income-producing assets. Our tax return was prepared in accordance with the US Internal Revenue Code as the most complete and succinct statement of our family income. It may be the case that we could have filed separately when reporting our 2006 income, but 1) at the time, I did not know that I would be accepting employment in the UK, and 2) even if I had, I would not have known about the Byzantine interpretive strategies employed by the UK Home Office. I do not believe that the UK Home Office has the authority to penalise US taxpayers for complying with US tax law.
In any case, I corroborated my individual earnings with two pieces of additional evidence: 1) my wage slips covering an entire twelve-month period in 2006 and 2007, and 2) the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 "salary letters" which are sent to each member of the faculty by the president of Clark University (my employer since 1997) giving details of salary for the coming academic year.
d) Does the documentation cover the full period? I provided documentation of earnings over an academic year, which is how salaries are calculated by my employer. Income tax returns cover earnings over a calendar year. The guidance notes for the HSMP application do not specify that the periods covered by two types of documentation need to correspond exactly with one another. They request income documentation for 12 of the preceding 15 months, and they request the most recent available tax return. Since tax returns are filed in April of each year to declare income for the preceding calendar year, there is no possibility of providing that type of documentation for income earned during 2007. Since most of the period between January 2006 and December 2006 does not fall within the 15 months preceding the HSMP application, that evidence is not suitable for submission. Here the HSMP staff appears to have invented a rule which is not stated in the application instructions, and would contain fatal internal contradictions if it were. The contention in your letter of 28 August is arbitrary, and it contradicts the published guidance.
3. The letter claims that two of the supporting documents provided state "your expected salary and they do not state your actual salary for the period claimed." The two documents in question are letters from the President of Clark University, Dr John Bassett, informing me of my salary for the 2006-2007 and the 2007-2008 academic years. These letters are sent each year to each permanent member of the faculty at Clark University, as they are at nearly every other university in the United States. According to US employment law and the rules of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), these letters are legally binding documents with contractual status. As the president of the University, Dr Bassett is the highest ranking administrative officer of the institution, and under the university statute does not have the authority to discuss vague expectations in this type of communication (although he may do so in other contexts, such as addresses before a public audience).
For the reasons stated above, it is apparent to me that the HSMP team has misinterpreted the documentation which was submitted to them, has rejected documentation without valid reason, and consequently reached an incorrect conclusion in considering my case. I am therefore appealing the decision and requesting that the case be reconsidered.
Please permit me to remind you that my application was submitted with a request for urgent treatment, and that I request that my appeal also be treated urgently.
Thank you for considering my appeal.
Dr Eric Gordy
For the record, perhaps I should note that I am not a terrorist, have never committed a crime, and always clean up after my dog.
- Ask to be informed.
- Fail to receive a reply.
- Ask for intervention by the complaints unit.
- Receive a bewildering variety of contradictory replies, some stating that the case has already been taken up, some stating that the case will be taken up in the future, and some stating that the case cannot be taken up.
- Ask to be informed again.
- Fail to receive a reply again (repeat two times).
- Find the address of the head of the Border and Immigration Agency.
- Ask her to intervene ("Hej ministre, jel mogu da dobijem jednu garažu za svoj bend?").
- In the meantime, continue to receive correspondence telling you that it is impossible to be notified of the status of your case in less than twelve weeks "due to security reasons."
- After a short interval, receive the document that they were obligated to supply in the first place, along with a note stating that informing applicants of the status of their cases in a timely manner "is not common practice and has been done on this occasion exceptionally."
You may request one reconsideration of your application. This will be carried out on the basis of exactly the same information provided in your original application. If you wish us to review our decision, you should clearly set out the reasons why you believe the decision is incorrect in a letter to the HSMP Team or complete the review request form available on our website: www.workingintheuk.gov.uk. This must be sent within 28 days of the date of the decision. Please note that any review requests received more than 28 days after the date of the decision will not normally be accepted and any verbal request for a review cannot be considered as valid.Considering that I was able to be notified of the decision within 17 days only by virtue of the extraordinary intervention of a powerful individual, and that otherwise the Home Office seems to insist that twelve weeks is a reasonable amount of time in which to be notified of decisions, an interesting possibility arises. Since weeks, if they are calculated using base-10, generally last 7 days, and since 12 x 7 = 84, and since 84 - 28 = 56, it looks as though somebody has calculated a way to deprive every applicant of the right of appeal by design.
Quod erat zajebatum.
Everybody has a dream. Mine is to introduce the guy on the label of Jagodinsko pivo to the guy on the label of Birra Moretti. Vlade Divac aims a bit higher than me, and wants to use his new foundation to secure homes for people who are still living in refugee camps (might he have an object lesson for his younger colleagues?). And some other people's dreams may be better left alone.
Dear Applicant, Your documents and letter were actually sent back to you by airmail on the 28th of August. Please allow up to twelve weeks for delivery.Twelve weeks to receive a letter! What dread postal service dogpaddles off Albion's shores?
Good Sportsmanship Indicators:One of the images that appears frequently in the list is that of the "student-athlete." In that spirit, here Darko Miličić applies, in his explanation of his team's dismal performance, what he has learned in his courses on obstetrics:
- Respect for officials - student-athletes raise hand or arm to signal a foul.
- Student-athletes shake hands before and after the contest.
- Unsportsmanlike behavior violations are addressed appropriately.
- Inappropriate conduct by coaches has consequences.
- Appropriate recognition when competitor gets injured and is forced to leave the competition.
- Fans, coaches and student-athletes are held accountable for negative behavior.
- Fans are enthusiastic supporters of their teams but respectful to opposing teams and their supporters.
- There is a respect shown by all competitors for the opposing team.
- Gamesmanship by coaches or players is frowned upon.
Why a complex visa application instead of a simple work permit application, you ask? I would happily answer that question, if I understood the reason. And just how complex? Well, that I can answer.
They want the originals of my undergraduate and graduate diplomas, which means pulling them out of their frames and devising a way of sending them to Sheffield. They want paycheck stubs covering an uninterrupted twelve-month period, with a calculation of the value of earnings over that period in colourful UK currency on the date of the last paycheck stub. They want a letter from my undergraduate institution certifying that courses were taught in English. This is a partial list. How secure do I feel sending this pile of documentation to a post office box in Sheffield? Let's just say that earlier this year they lost the passport of a dear friend of mine, and that even on request they will not acknowledge receipt of my documents. Perhaps it could be objected that a week is not sufficient time to acknowledge receipt of a package, or that two days is not sufficient time to respond to a simple e-mail inquiry. A number of other premises could be viable here. How often has it happened that people who appear to be inept are in fact merely bashful about their competence?
This may be something of a rush introduction the joys of UK bureaucracy. In any case, my Balkan friends seem to be delighted that "they do this to Americans too." They do!
I have meanwhile come to terms with the prospect that I will arrive at my new job late, and remain trusting that I will arrive at all. In that spirit, the office I never believed would be reasonably clean is now wholly empty, and today the car is getting its last bit of loving care from our mechanic, after which I will wash it and sell it.
And readers will forgive me, perhaps, if I seem a little distracted?
This tells me that it may be time to give East Ethnia a well deserved rest. I'll be leaving the site alone until at least September or so, when I will be resurfacing in a new location. It is also possible that I may put some time into conceiving another type of web presence, after three years of this blog. Keep your eyes open, I will either reappear here in the same format or announce something else.
- Go down stairs to the kafić that somebody very thoughtfully put in the space between your building and the one next.
- Release dog.
- Order coffee, chat with neighbours.
- Order another coffee, chat some more.
- Repeat as necessary.
Prokleto dobro znam that I have not been updating much in the past several days, apologies to those resilient readers who keep dropping by here nonetheless. I cannot claim to have as good a reason for closing up shop as the ones offered by a fine Greek deli which offers outstanding toast in Minneapolis.
Most of the time here has been spent in gentle work. A little bit of preparation for my fabulous new arbajt, a bit of hanging out with the very beguiling Palestinian-Israeli conflict transformation group that has begun its visit to the region, a bit of writing, and a lot of the intense warm-weather research activity that goes by the name "sitting around drinking beer with friends."
Last night I made an arduous trek by wild Ikarbus to visit a dear friend in distant Žarkovo, beyond the mountaintops of Banovo brdo. Among his guests was a charming young fellow who knew every lyric, every incident, and every detail of the life of Bob Dylan, which put me in a position to try to dream up answers to questions like "who is Mr Jones?" Surprisingly I found that I had reserves of knowledge of which I had not been aware, or else a good capacity to make stuff up.
As far as I can remember, I have never felt that kind of relation to celebrity. But it may be time to pick it up.
Update: Turns out the rumour is half true -- same story, different sponsor.
DS: Isn't our boy well mannered?
DSS: President of the Republic, who's that?
Center politicians in Croatia: That was sweet.
Right politicians in Croatia: Maybe, but he's still from Serbia, isn't he?
Serbian NGOs: He's starting to get good at this.
LDP: More, more.
SRS: If that stuff was so bad, why were we so well compensated for it?
SPS: If only we had known about this guy earlier.
"If tomorrow for the fifth time Feral does not make it to the newsstands, and if there is no Feral next week either, or ever, Croatia will not be the same -- that could be a pathetic obituary for Feral. But we all know that is colossal foolishness: Croatia will be exactly the same, only there will be nobody to tell it."
Historically this last statement was true. You could always go to Manjež. It was the sort of place where you would go if you didn't know where to go. If you were walking in the area you would swing by, because the probability that some group of your friends would be sitting at the tables on the sidewalk in front was reliably high. The place was always dirty, its WC like a scene out of Trainspotting, and their food would always just barely cling to this side of average. The beer was BIP (a local acronym, BIP = Bedna Imitacija Piva). But it was cheap, the crowd of people mixed and welcoming, and before you sat down konobar Draško already knew what you wanted. Manjež was a rare reassurance that whatever else was going on, something was always right with the world.
Last year the place was closed down for remodelling, and the people who did the job could have done a lot worse. They did not fill it with neon and chrome, or turn it into a casino, or stick fountains everywhere. It seems like there was a serious effort to recapture the atmosphere of what Manjež may well have been at some time, a beokafana period piece of the kind in which the characters in an Alfred Hitchcock film might dine while waiting to shuffle onto a train full of hidden murder weapons and a vaguely menacing border guard. They did not raise the prices much, and the food was just fine.
All the same, Manjež is no more. It has never happened before that on a pleasant summer evening, I sit with a friend at a sidewalk table and we are the only people there. Nor that opera arias waft gently though the windows. Nor that we are not repeatedly approached by the local stray cats (what did they do to them?). Konobar Draško is nowhere to be seen. People: Manjež is not Manjež without konobar Draško. More than this: Belgrade is not Belgrade without konobar Draško.
There is one more unremarkable spot in the city, and the world is just a little bit poorer.
There is a colorful new sticker in the lift advising children on how to behave while sampling that high and frequently operational technology. Next to the useful instructions on how a child should, in case of emergency, phone the gradsko stambeno preduzeće using only an oversized teddy bear, comes this piece of indisputable advice:
A boxing match in the lift?It's true, I think.
The lift will be a severe referee!
This is, by the way, the "news" I have cryptically mentioned a couple of times. Our little family is pulling up its carefully cultivated Massachusetts roots and will be adding its own little brdašce to the London Balkanscape. The Ethniette will acquire one of those accents you hear on late night radio saying "oh seven hours, Greenwich mean time" (I intend to keep my Northwest monotone, thank you very much), Sig.ra Ethnia will ply her trade in that foreign land, and I will be Senior Lecturer in Southeast European Politics at UCL's dear old SSEES. As for Lajoš, the vet has stuck one of those horrifying chips into him, so now he will have the added marginal utility of being able to store phone numbers or recipes or something.
Of course I am absolutely thrilled to join up with the outstanding existing faculty there and with the hugely talented people who will be coming in at the same time as me. Add to this the incredible crew of people at other universities in London and elsewhere in the UK (you know who you are), and it is not hard to see where the new Balkanological paradise is coming together. As much as it is the džob of my dreams, I will do my best never to become one of those things they call an "expat." More of a gastarbajter, I should think.
The coming year will be tough. The family will be separated for some portion of it, and we will have to learn to like jellied eels. But mostly I am stunned by my good fortune, and constantly remembering the pop song line, "when you come from a background of bargain bins, you're bound to fear it ends where it begins." It still seems improbable to me, sitting as I am here in Budapest with three weeks worth of stinky t-shirts and socks from the student trip drying to the eclectic sounds of Radio Petöfi.
My colleagues in the Clark University sociology department, who I hope will come to visit us in London, have been informed. I still have to resolve with the administration under what conditions I will be departing. And I told the students who were travelling with me, who were very sweet in offering me their congratulations and a parting gift of 250 grammes of espresso.
The Yugoslavia exhibit is on the top floor of a barrack that is shared with the very razzle-dazzle Austrian exhibit (which centers on the dangers of nationalism). The first room presents general information on the period, with many photos repeated from the main exhibit hall a few buildings away. There is a very little bit of information about the 24,000 people from Yugoslavia who were put in the camp. Some of them were in a resistance organisation, if you want to know more about that or how resistance organisations functioned, or how the Yugoslavian ones related with the others, you will not find out from the exhibit.
The second room gives a general presentation, very NOB-centric, of the occupation and war in Yugoslavia. Some crimes, some collaborators, and a whole lot of Partisan heroics. The passage of time makes this emphasis more interesting, since this is now the only site at the museum where the myth of massive resistance is preserved. The visitor is able to follow the growth of Partisan divisions, peek in at AVNOJ, trace the expansion of liberated territory. The exhibit ends with a big photo of Tito signing the new constitution of FNRJ.
Since the country that designed the exhibit no longer exists, and since the museum site does not have extra barracks for the countries that have come about in the meantime, the Yugoslav pavilion will probably remain a fascinating relic of Communist historiography for some time. I left the hall torn between the feeling that some good historians could probably (without the sponsorship of any government) do much better on the one hand, and the urge to sing Partisan songs on the other.
I am not sure I can say how much importance ought to be attributed to her "fashion sense," which seems to range from K.D. Lang to Bryan Ferry. But it's all good if it supports the characterization of her victory gesture, "Her clenched fist victory salute was widely seen as a show of defiance by the forces in Serbia that stand in direct opposition to the ultranationalists and their policy of isolation and hostility to all minorities."
"Belgrade exploded with joy the moment her victory was proclaimed, with thousands taking to the streets, honking car horns and waving the Serbian flag in the capital's central Republic Square until dawn.
Such outpourings are typical when the country's basketball or water polo teams are victorious. But this was different, for it was the first time the proverbially macho Serbs had done the same honours for a young female singer - let alone one with Serifovic's unusual fashion sense."
Maybe that offers a sort of background for the silly argument between the Unija Roma Srbije (in whose campaign Šerifović participated, and in which her mother is a member and her uncle an officer) and the Srpska Radikalna Stranka (of which, they claim, her grandfather is a member) over which political party can claim credit for her singing. She says she is not a member of any party, but that did not seem to distract the party leaders much.
Catherine also has a roundup of press coverage.
Update: It ain't Balkanology without essentialism, right? Here is Frank Tiggelaar's English translation of an article from the Dutch NRC Handelsblad about macho countries and ideal women. Or is it macho women and ideal countries?
Yet another update: Uh oh, bilo bi dobro i meni da pogledate the comments to the previous post, where Paul points us to charges that "Molitva" is lifted from the Albanian hit "Ndarja" by Soni Malaj. And did the unfortunate Scooch pinch a tune from DaRiva?
And one writes in with a bizarre story about leech smuggling. The estimated value of 8849 leeches is 722,000 Euros? Apparently leeches are a profitable business. Who knew?