The best Balkan folk in Colorado

Believe it or not, I heard of this group by way of a profile on National Public Radio (NPR), the American network that used to offer much better journalism but still has some of the smartest entertainment programs around. DeVotchKa is a bunch of arty folks from Denver who mix norteño, mariachi, East European Roma folk, and, ah, a whole bunch of other stuff. Think Boris Kovač meets rave-up.

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By all means buy their lovely new CD How It Ends, but in the meantime you can enjoy some samples at their downloads page, including «Such a lovely thing,» «Death by blonde,» and «Dark eyes.»

That imaginary line, crossed again

It happened before in Novi Sad, and it will continue happening as long as there is so little more than verbal assertion to distinguish DSS from SRS. In the not very SRS-friendly at all Belgrade district of Zvezdara (pazite Hrvati a naročito Hrvatice: tamo živi Petar Luković) the president of the district council, DS delegate Miloš Popović, was removed and replaced by Ljubiša Stojmirović of SRS. Voting to install Mr Stojmirović, according to B92, was a coalition of his own far-right SRS, the wonder-what-they-think-they-are-up-to SDP, the why-bother Pokret «snaga Srbije,» and the currently governing DSS of prime minister Vojislav Koštunica.

Interesting then that a survey from early February shows that 55% people either completely or mostly believe the charges made by Beba Popović, who among other things accused Mr Koštunica of agreeing to protect elements of the former regime as a condition of being permitted to assume the presidency in 2000. What remains uncertain is whether Mr Koštunica is doing this for some gain, or because that is his inclination.

All right, then

Greetings from my own computer! The Apple service department would appear to have come through this time, and I have a shiny new optical drive and logic board. Posting to resume in the earlier spirit over the weekend.


«What is it, you mice»

Now before the Serbian parliament, courtesy of the deputies of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) and the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), is a «Proposal to enable the defense of Slobodan Milošević and cease the harassment of the members of his family.» The proposal will not pass for obvious reasons, but the debate on it cannot be stopped easily either, since the presence of 84 members of the Parliament is sufficient to keep it going. And it is going at a rate that soon the members of SRS, Tomislav Nikolić in particular, will have exhausted all of the names of ordinary barnyard and household animals, after which will follow an intraparty debate over whether the names sea or land creatures ought to be used to call the members of nonfascist parties in the continuation of the debate. Which will certainly go on and on.

Reports from B92, from Danas, from Blic .... the parliament may have no credibility, but call a few people mice and dogs, it gets publicity.

Write the way you vote, look the way you think

A nice bit of niche employment for instrumental academics is the opportunity, every few decades or as political conditions call for it, to pretend to reteach people their language in a way they are certain to ignore. The latest publicly sanctioned effort is the guidebook to the Croatian language edited by Sanda Ham, Stjepan Babić and Milan Moguš, superseding the 1994 edition by Babić, Finka and Moguš.

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Like James Joyce, dr Sanda Ham revels in the openness of language

By decision of the Ministry of Education, every schoolchild must keep track of what these three people imagine is most consistent with national traditions this year. Styles are getting narrower. This year, you can say podatci but not podaci, and pogrješka but not pogreška. All the more reason for an increasing number of people to say ne ću (but not neću) and teach their children the language of some other country.

A new mailing list

Some readers might be interested in this announcement:

A new mailing list has been launched to promote exchange between academics, researchers, practitioners, or anyone else interested in the past (and present) of cities in the Balkan region. Information posted via [BalkanCities] will include: calls for applications/papers, articles, new publications, book reviews, online resources, questions regarding research, and other kinds of announcements. The list will be moderated, yet contributions by the subscribers are highly encouraged to ensure a vivid exchange of information and discussion. You can easily subscribe to [BalkanCities] by sending a blank email to balkancities-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Best Regards,

Maximilian Hartmuth, Istanbul
[BalkanCities] moderator


If we talk like people

Well! It seems that the ministers of culture of Serbia and Kosovo have established contact with one another, exchanged letters, and are planning to exchange visits. It is such a pleasure to be able to report about politicians in the region doing something decent and constructive. Sincere compliments to Mr Haraqija and to Mr Kojadinovic!

The light at the end of the tunnel

As the brilliant song I had the pleasure of encountering at the "Sunday Choir" at Viewropa says, "The light at the end of the tunnel is the light of an oncoming train." But that wasn't what I wanted to write about here. Instead, I wanted to let East Ethnia's loyal readers know that Apple says my computer is repaired, which means I ought to be getting it back tomorrow. So the dry period of light posting should end, with any luck.

In the meantime, you may enjoy this Jon Stewart clip from One Good Move, where he gives his perspective on the little scandal involving a prostitute posing as a reporter at the White House, and reflects oh so thoughtfully on the interaction between blogs and mainstream media.

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The file is a Quicktime video, 9.4MB, lasting nine minutes and forty eight seconds.

The glorious cultural revolution

There is an oddly named group out there called Students for Academic Freedom, odd in the semse that its members are not students and they are opposed to academic freedom. It would appear to be yet another vehicle for a fellow known only to longtime dedicated media junkies, the Trotskyist-turned-Stalinist David Horowitz.

One of their activities seems to be collecting denunciations of professors for failing to hold the same opinions as the publicists of the extreme right. I went through the complaints they had compiled hoping to find the names of my friends -- there is only one there, but my compliments to her. The exercise is weakened by the fact that among the things the complainants seem not to have learned at the university are the names of their professors. You could check out their little denunciation archive at the above link, but be warned that what you read will be freaky, and also that you will not be able to read it all since these "students" did not learn how to write HTML code either.

Update: The theocrat really cannot code, so the link above seems to be inaccessible until David Horowitz can find someone who both shares his views and knows how to do anything. That could be a while. But someone else was kind enough to archive the denunciations.


Brotherhood and lunacy

Odd and disquieting reading .... over at Carniola, Mike has stumbled across a debate at a neofascist website on the question of whether Yugoslavia ever will or ought to be revived. Everyone in every group leaves everyone in every other group wondering why anyone ever thought it was a good idea to try to live with them. This is probably an accomplishment of some sort or another.

South by southeast

I've only read the description, but this new film by Milutin Petrovic sounds very interesting indeed. South by Southeast is a "psychothriller about the fragile boundary between reality and fiction in a society which does not want to modernise, but abandons itself to the work of inertia and lets others decide about about its fate." Among the operating theses is this description of contemporary Serbian society:

"In a time that demands the readiness of every individual and the whole society to confront the immediate past, events are masked, covered over with half-truths, or simply pushed away. If the twentieth century was the century of schizophrenia, the twenty-first century is the final victory of paranoia."

Intrigued to see how this is demonstrated in a mystery plot involving politics, emigres, and a kidnapping? The film premieres in March.


The universal Vegeta

There is a discussion over at the culinary fetishists' message board eGullet on the unique and mysterious qualities of that fine product of the Podravka corporation, Vegeta.

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The person initiating the discussion calls the flavor "essence of Grandma," and also quote's Podravka's publicity material, which inclusively declares, "Vegeta is enjoyed by people regardless of their religions, social classes, traditions, climates and the ways they eat; using either spoons or chopsticks or fingers. Vegeta unites us around a big universal table where we understand each other perfectly well, although we speak different languages." Podravka also lets us in on the little-known fact that Vegeta was created in the same year as the Barbie doll.

In addition: Another discussion at the same site points readers to this bit of culinary theology from the Carnegie Deli: "at the Istanbul Qadiri center (called the dergah), on the last Tuesday of Ramadan, seven dishes are served. Soup serves as a reminder of the importance of water to life; meat and vegetables symbolize the earth; pilaf and borek (meat and vegetables rolled in fillo dough) represent fire. Eggs with pastirma — a Turkish cured meat similar to pastrami — signify Divine generative power, combining the feminine symbol of the egg with the salty masculinity of the meat. Gullac, a rose-scented pastry boiled in milk, is an emblem of Divine love." Salty masculinity?


A visit to Kosovo

International media are reporting that the big news of Serbian president Boris Tadic's visit to Kosovo is that he said that he was opposed to independence (see this example from the ABC and this example from the BBC). It doen't make too much sense that if an official repeats his government's well-known position that this is somehow news. More likely, Mr Tadic said the only thing that his position allows him to say. But the news is something else. If you look at election returns, the margin for the Milosevic-regime parties was generally provided by Serbs from Kosovo, either by actual voting or by fraud. That margin is still there but it has been diminishing since 2000. The news is that Mr Tadic did what his verbally strident opponents did not do: he showed up. If he had only done that and not said anything, he would already be securing the return of DS to power in the next election. That he did say something says very little.