Design question

Gosh, this is bizarre. All the positive comments on the new design have come from people who use Safari as their browser, but a reader just wrote to me to say that on Internet Explorer, the design is completely different and utterly illegible. Have other people experienced this? The way it ought to look is with a white background, the header white letters on a red background, the text in black letters and the links in blue letters.

Any suggestions on how I might fix this compatibility problem (other than suggesting that most browsers are probably preferable to IE)?

Fun with surveys

Before everyone gets all excited about the survey that shows 30% of Russians wouldn't mind having Stalin back as head of state, think about the survey situation. Somebody asks you a question combining an outrage with an implausibility. Maybe you are confused, maybe angry, maybe annoyed. What do you do? Lie to the questioner, of course. Anything to get rid of this person who duped you into taking what you thought was going to be a survey about topics that matter. If lots of people do this, the survey produces a baffling result that is certain to be reported everywhere. Even here.

Support your local sevdah publisher

Just so you know, Snail Records is your source for the recordings of Ljiljana Petrović Buttler, the Mostar Sevdah Reunion, and Amira (pictured)

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Their web site has articles, photos and reviews, but sadly no musical samples.

Nostalgia time

This time around Nova TV will probably be ruffling fewer eagle feathers. They never got to broadcast Petar Vlahov's interview with Ceca, but tomorrow they will go further back into the past.

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Fahreta Jahić-Živojinović, formerly the national treasure Lepa Brena, will be appearing on the talk show hosted by Balkan girl Alka Vuica. Glas javnosti expects a perfectly pleasant time to be had by all.

A bit better?

I've messed with the colors a bit. To anybody's satisfaction, by any stroke of luck?


Communicate with baked goods

In Sarajevo, a group of students tried to «congratulate» minister Zdravko Petrović for the great real estate deal he had made in selling the land slated for a new university campus at an extremely low price for a new US Embassy by bringing him a chocolate cake. He told them he doesn't eat sweets and that they should be studying.

No mountaineering or shepherding songs, then

In Blic, football legend Dragan Stojković Piksi, now president of the Football Council of Serbia and Montenegro, politely requests that the state adopt a hymn that audiences will not greet with hoots and whistles. Apparently nobody is willing to show respect for «Hej Sloveni,» and last year's attempt to breed a hybrid compromise by hiring a composer to combine «Tamo daleko» and «Oj svijetla majska zoro» didn't start a new dance craze either. When Savo Milošević (no relation to that other guy, nor to Sladjana) agrees with Piksi, it has to be true.

Nobody seems to like my suggestion that Disciplina kičme's «Novac neće doći» would be a good hymn. So what do you recommend?

Also, pandas are really very cute

Has anybody else noticed how excellent the guest bloggers featured this week at the Pandagon are? Be sure that I mean no offense to Jesse Taylor, the regular editor. He always offers some of the best and most pleasurable analysis around. But Amanda Marcotte (from Mousewords), Lindsay Beyerstein (from Majikthise) and S.L. Zoll (from World O' Crap) are achieving transcendence.

News flash: Second World War ends

The grandsons of Četnik leader Draža Mihailović and Partisan leader Josip Broz Tito are set to meet over the same table where their grandfathers met in 1941, sit and shake hands, symbolically making peace between the two movements, reports Večernje novosti. In the words of Joška Broz:

«Let's leave aside what was and who left what to whom. We have reached the bottom, and now we have to make a state that will allow this people to live. Let's come to our senses, and if they are asking me to reconcile, I am happy to do everything that I can.»

Vojislav Mihailović has also confirmed that he will come. No word on whether šumadijski čaj will be served.


The fake left loves the far right

This passage is on a reasonably popular «alternative news» site:

«Although Milosevic was an elected president, the United States wanted him removed from power. The disintegration of Yugoslavia, spurred on by the claim for sovreignty [sic] by Croatia (backed by Germany) and the unrest in Kosovo eventually led to a NATO invasion and occupation of Serbia. President Milosevic however remained defiant and in power. OTPOR was the group selected to spark popular protests to have him resign or removed from office.»

The factual errors I count are: 1) Slobodan Milošević was not «an elected president,» but was appointed by the parliament in a rush session in 1997 which was scheduled in order to prevent the deputies who were certain to vote against him from showing up (he did, of course, «win» a series of fraudulent elections to a different position earlier on), 2) there is little evidence that the United States wanted Milošević removed from power, and considerable evidence that he was treated as a favored negotiating partner and the «key to peace» in the region (on this point see Richard Holbrooke's memoir), 3) Yugoslavia «disintegrated,» in the sense of having federal institutions which were neither functional nor recognised by the constituent members of the federation, well before any republic declared independence, 4) NATO did not invade or occupy Serbia, 5) Milošević was far more compliant than defiant, abandoning the project of territorial expansion in Croatia, accepting the Dayton and Kumanovo agreements, and being the first to extradite a suspect to the Tribunal in whose custody he now finds himself, 6) Milošević did not resign from office, nor was he removed, but was rather defeated in elections he had himself called in September 2000. Then of course there is the contextual question: nothing happened between Croatia's declaration of independence in 1991 and the Kosovo intervention in 1999? Actually, a few things come to mind.

But I am not persuaded that this kind of nonsense comes from not knowing the facts. Probably it comes more from relying on the readers not knowing the facts, the easier to make a broad ideological point.


Mining for trouble

Nobody will have any difficulty finding people to argue that economic development takes priority over justice, or even that it is a precondition. The point is grist for one-liners of all too many literary icons. For Bertolt Brecht it was «grub first, then ethics.» For George Orwell it was «The belly comes before the soul.» For Mark Twain it was «Principles have no real force except when one is well fed.» And for Billie Holiday it was «You’ve got to have something to eat and a little love in your life before you can hold still for any damn body’s sermon on how to behave.»

Anyone can see the point, but the trouble is that the two fields cannot always be separated. Would it be good to revive the mining industry in Bosnia and Hercegovina with the help of international investment? Probably so, for a lot of reasons. But what if the mine site was also the site one of the most notorious camps during the war period? That is the case with the Ljubija complex near Prijedor, in which the giant Mittal Steel has bought a 51% share. The Omarska mine in the complex was the site of the Omarska camp, and the territory includes the unexhumed bodies of 1700 victims of wartime murders. The issue is reported in depth by Igor Lašić and Maja Lovrenović for Feral Tribune (no link, sorry, Feral is a subscription site).

Lakshmi Mittal of Mittal Steel has issued an equivocal statement, reports Feral, saying «We are willing to listen carefully to any requests that they may have» and «We are a significant investor in the area, having acquired both the iron ore and the steelmaking facilities, and are committed to ensuring a prosperous future for the region.» Less formal sources from Mittal suggest the company is likely to be cautious about doing anything that could be perceived as antagonising Serbs. Since Mittal's co-owner is the government of Republika Srpska, Mittal will probably have easy access to information about what might be perceived as antagonistic.

Doth the conscience object too much?

Ah, yes. The commander of the ground troops of the Armed Forces of Serbia and Montenegro, major general Momir Stojanović, is concerned that people are using their right to conscientious objection. As he told attendees at some fun artillery tulum:

«If we continue this way with conscientious objection, as it relates to carrying arms, I believe that one day we will all have a collective conscientious objection to the question of freedom and the defence of the country.»

The good general seems to be aware of the degree of loyalty his institution inspires, and how this relates to conscience.

SEEMO media award, call for nominations

I got this call for nominations in the mail and figured that somebody among the readers of this blog may well have a name in mind.

Vienna, 23 February 2005

Application Details for the Dr. Erhard Busek - SEEMO Award for Better Understanding in South East Europe 2005

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is pleased to announce the Dr. Erhard Busek - SEEMO 2005 Award for Better Understanding in South East Europe.

Sponsored by Erhard Busek, special coordinator for the Stability Pact, the 2,000 Euro award will be given to a journalist, editor, media executive or person educating journalists in South Eastern Europe, thus using the media to promote a climate of better understanding among people in the region and to work towards ending minority problems, ethnic divisions, racism, xenophobia etc.

In 2002, the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) and its international jury chose Croatian journalist Denis Latin as recipient of the Dr. Erhard Busek - SEEMO 2002 Award for Better Understanding in South East Europe, in recognition of his outstanding efforts in journalism, which contributed toward better understanding in South Eastern Europe. In 2003, the award was presented to Kemal Kurspahic, former editor-in-chief of the Sarajevo daily Oslobodjenje.

If you know of anyone who would be a worthy recipient of the Dr. Erhard Busek - SEEMO Award for Better Understanding in South East Europe, please send a letter to SEEMO with basic details about the person you would like to nominate (along with a professional CV, describing why she / he should receive the award), as well as the contacts of the person you are nominating (media organisation, address, phone, fax, email). If your nomination is supported by an organisation / media outlet, please send us the name of the contact person supporting your nomination, as well as basic information about the organisation / media outlet. If your nomination is supported by other individual / individuals, please send us the necessary details and contacts of the other supporters. We also need your basic details and your contacts (address, phone, fax, email, mobile phone).

Any additional material about the nominated person (such as TV reports on video or DVD, audio reports on cassette or CD, or articles in newspapers), if possible with a short English translation, are welcomed. Please send them with your nomination.

Please send all to:

"Busek Award"
Spiegelgasse 2/29
1010 Vienna, Austria

Tel: +43 1 513 39 40
Fax: +43 1 512 90 15
E-mail: busekaward@seemo.org

Material will not be returned, so please always send copies of documents, CVs, reports, articles, videos, audiotapes, DVDs or CDs.

The application deadline for the Dr. Erhard Busek - SEEMO Award for Better Understanding in South East Europe is:
1 May 2005

For any further information, please contact Kristina Benkotic, SEEMO Assistant.

SEEMO - IPI, Spiegelgasse 2/29, 1010 Vienna, Austria, Tel (SEEMO + HELP LINE): +43 1 513 39 40,

Tel (SEEMO): +43 1 512 90 11 11, Fax: +43 1 512 90 15,

E-mail: info@seemo.org, Web: http://www.seemo.org

SEEMO is a regional network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe.

If you want to nominate someone, contact them, not me. I'm just a messenger.

Hotel Rwanda

We finally had a chance today to see Hotel Rwanda, the cinematic adaptation of the story of the urbane hotel manager who housed and protected people who sought refuge in the luxurious Hotel des Mille Collines in Kigali.

If there is a story designed for the Hollywood heroic-individual-does-what-they-said-could-not-be-done treatment, probably it is the story of Paul Rusesabagina, who cobbled together connections, inside information, what bribery he could muster and good will to protect people who every major institution, from powerful countries and the United Nations to established religions, outrageously failed to stand up for. Together with the Canadian general Roméo Dallaire, repeatedly undercut by a scandalously indifferent UN bureaucracy, Mr Rusesabagina is one of the few genuine candidates for hero status from the Rwandan genocide. The film prefers Mr Rusesabagina's modest heroism to Mr Dallaire's tragic mode. While Mr Dallaire is demoted to colonel and suffers the further indignity of being played by Nick Nolte, Don Cheadle's Rusesabagina functions at all times as the embodiment of every middle-class virtue a viewer can imagine.

One can only complain so much about the Hollywood treatment. The film is not a documentary and does not pretend to offer a reliable historical record. There have been documentaries, which were sparsely watched. I have taught enough courses in which the explanation of Rwanda has to begin with "where is Africa?" that I am accepting of a little melodrama as the price of getting information out. Still, two things disturbed me. One was the individualistic mode of storytelling in which a few big figures seemed to direct the activity of others (refuge seekers, killers) who matter crucially but do little. In the context, it is confusing. The second is the "plot resolution" at the end, in which a couple of ICTR verdicts are deployed to imply that everything has been resolved and justice done. Anyone who has followed the ICTR and domestic initiatives knows how incomplete this is.

Still, it is a film more likely to enlighten than mislead, and is considerably less sanitized and ideological than the average political thriller. When we left the theatre, there were students outside handing out leaflets proclaiming "Prevent 'Hotel Darfur'." But we know how that story comes out: it was not prevented and nobody will be defended. Maybe afterward somebody in entertainment or journalism will find another heroic individual to celebrate, and everybody can feel a little bit better that such a person exists and immensely relieved that it is someone else.


Reminder: Get your submissions in!

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Just a reminder: The second Carnival of the Balkans will be published on 7 March! Send your favorite posts to Bora Zivkovic at coturnix AT gmail DOT com or coturnix1 AT aol DOT com. He just did a brilliant post for the Tar Heel Tavern, a collection of North Carolina blogs.

This year's raspberry harvest

Among the winners of this year's Golden Raspberry Awards for worst achievements in film:

✩Worst film: Catwoman
✩Worst actor: George W. Bush for his role in Farenheit 9/11
✩Worst actress: Halle Berry for her role in Catwoman
✩Worst screen couple: George W. Bush and Condoleeza Rice for their role in Farenheit 9/11

Halle Berry came to the ceremony to accept her award with grace and humor, but Mr Bush did not.

Camille Monet on a garden bench eating a taco

This is a delightful item from Viewropa! A Monet calendar livened up with stickers by the poster's Aunt Joan. Quote of the day: «Observe how dinosaurs, teddy bears, and farm machinery bring new life to tired old impressionism.»

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We are all (not) Maradona

Emir Kusturica explains to Novosti what he has in mind for the documentary he will be filming on Diego Maradona:

«I want, for all time, to find and to return on film the true idea of Maradona. If that idea is lost now, because of the scandals that have followed him, with the filmic confrontation of his his former life with what Maradona is now, I will try to create anew or return the myth of him.»

And why should anyone believe that true ideas come from anything other than myths? Are there any particular myths that Mr Kusturica has in mind? He tells us, enigmatically:

«in Latin America Diego Maradona is a god to whom everything is forgiven. While here, there does not exist even one hero who is forgiven...»

He wouldn't have any particular heroes in mind.

Technical notes

First off, the consensus response to the new blog template seems to be a bleah from the English speakers, a bljak from the speakers of Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian (except for the few who are consulting Ham, Babić and Moguš to see whether that should be blatk or blj ak), and a whimper from the dogs. So I'll go back to the drawing board. This may have to wait for the next bout of insomnia.

Second, a brief promotional introduction to the joy of RSS feeds in The Guardian finally pulled me out of my Luddite torpor to go try it. For those who are not familiar with this gizmo, as I was not until about an hour ago, it is extremely simple way of using a software program to monitor your favorite news sites and blogs for new updates. Basically you find the address of the site feed and add it to the list in the program. That way you can just check the feed monitor instead of repeatedly visiting your favorite blogs for updates. Forgive my belated fascination, but I am a nonmember of the technical intelligentsia so these things come to me a little slowly.

I sampled a few programs before deciding that my favorite is the one linked by the illustrious Teekay, called NewsFire. It fits my criteria of being nice to look at, simple to use, and available as shareware. It would appear to be Mac-only, which is only a problem if you are not a Mac user.

The site feeds for this blog are http://eastethnia.blogspot.com/atom.xml and http://feeds.feedburner.com/EastEthnia, should you care to try it out.