Friday, June 30, 2006

... surrounding areas

I’ve added some links to Reluctant Dragon. A collection of different formats with very different content, but generally an overview of things I browse through whenever I get the chance. Some inform me, some entertain me, some have inspired me, and some I wish my blog to resemble when it grows up.
I’ve been reading Belgrade Blog for some time. Their offer to exchange links was the first and very welcome, so now they share the BLOGS category with some other lovely bloggers. I just hope I can be as observant and insightful as the Desperate Serbwife.
BUILD is about something I enjoy – architecture - in the broadest sense, manmade or natural, great or small, good or bad, real or virtual. From the extremely well written BLDG blog on “architectural conjecture, urban speculation and landscape futures” to the much more down-to-earth Beobuild, a guide to actual construction in Belgrade with all its many flaws (these people are real enthusiasts, although the childish comments, obsession with size and hight instead of quality of buildings, and the occasional nationalist remarks can be quite annoying).
ARTS AND CRAFTS is a clumsily named design section covering fashion, furniture and much more…
And finally HELP! The friendly people who helped me figure out how this works.
There’s so much more that I like, so more links are sure to come.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Reluctant patriot

After days of anxiety the dreaded day has finally arrived. As a 27 year old male citizen of Serbia, I no longer have any legal means to avoid army duty and today I handed in my request for civilian service. As of September I will spend nine months in the service of “the fatherland”.
Apart from my absolute lack of confidence in problem-solving capabilities of armed conflict and the belief that a conscript army is complete nonsense, I have more specific reservations about my “duty” to the state. On a practical note, I wouldn’t want to spend 6 months in unsanitary conditions, being cold and hungry and in danger of getting killed if I accidentally stumble onto a hiding place of runaway war crimes suspects. I don’t believe in either the capability or the good will of the army to entrust them with my well being. Most importantly, I don’t think I owe anything to a country which has, with active participation of this very army, systematically undermined any prospect of normal living, forcing me, and everyone else, to undergo isolation, uncertainty and even bombs. Yes, some things have changed, but I think I had enough. Even civil service is too much, but unfortunately unavoidable. Who knows, maybe I will get to do something useful for the community, but the army hasn’t for a second considered how those of us who work and support ourselves are to survive all that time without pay. Fortunately, people I work for are flexible and I think I’ll manage somehow. In august I’ll know where I’m assigned and what my duties will be. This whole business is an upsetting waste of time and energy, but it’s out of my hands so I’ll just try and go with the flow.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Pain in the blog 3

On my journeys through the world of troubled bloggers I found out there are people with the exact (Exact!) same problem as me. The number 32 keeps reoccurring. Not exactly the answer to life the universe and everything else, but could there be a deeper meaning to this never-changing number of visitors to a website?
In the meantime, Blogger kindly replied to another of my e-mails, telling me that actually there is no problem, and that, to cut the long story short, time heals everything.
I also found friendly good people, who share their knowledge with others and with their help I’m embarking on a quest to bring my blog the eagerly awaited readers, and satisfy my curiosity on who they could be.
My experiment with spontaneous visitation has failed miserably. It seems this requires hard work. An offensive in blog promotion - a new challenge, a new experiment, a new adventure! During the day I’ve registered my blog with several directories, so I’ll be writing and posting, updating and pinging away and see how things develop…
I’ve also become a proud user of something called a StatCounter. So far, in the few hours since I installed it, nothing has happened but I confidently expect good things.
Well, counter is ready. Who will be my first officially recorded visitor?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


My almost proverbial optimism is a bit strained. Some people I know would probably try to convince me that I’m overreacting, but I just can’t help feeling as if a dark presence is looming somewhere above. I admit too, that I am nervous about other things and that in a few days I’ll feel better, but I have to express my frustration. There are bad things that we all know, have become accustomed to and live with, but at times they overcome me and I just can’t see the silver lining.
My latest surge of pessimism was sparked by a folk concert, of all things. The hundred thousand screaming fans startled me. What upset me even more is that I went out, while all this was going on, and the streets of my otherwise lively neighbourhood were deserted. Through open windows I could see the flickering lights of TV sets and heard Ceca as she poured into every single home. This is where Serbia is going. Where is everybody else?
The show, pompously announced as a grand spectacle, was in fact a bland recital where the singer in badly tailored haute couture clumsily paced left and right. But for people who do not know better it may have been a spectacle. And people still don’t know better. What’s worse, these people vote.
I can’t tell people what to listen to and who to vote for, it’s none of my business, but we can’t pretend that this is a proper democracy and that every choice is equally valid. Real music and musicians are not the same as the soundtrack of chaos and war in the 90s, criminals and war criminals. People who participated in, supported or instigated crime and conflict can not be seen as legitimate politicians. This weekend’s spectacle of silicone and cellulite is a picture of our past but could very well be the future.
Is it any wonder, then, that the radicals will almost certainly win the next elections? In the meantime, feeble attempts are being made to unite the “democratic block” against the radical threat. What democratic block? DSS are exactly the same as radicals, but afraid to say it in order not to lose even the small remaining following of people who are ashamed to admit to themselves that they are fascists too, so they cling to this symbolic “democratic” prefix. The democrats, on the other hand, have become slow and lazy after Djindjic was killed, trying so hard to be moderate and mainstream and appeal to the common people that in the process they have lost everything that had made them unique and appealing. The other so called “democratic” parties are not even worth mentioning as they are small and only exist to provide necessary votes for forming coalition governments, taking on new ideologies every time. LDP, GSS and their friends are the only ones with worthwhile programs and clear vision of a European future, but they are loathed by almost everyone and it will be years before they become a significant force in this country, if ever.
I also begin to change my views on Montenegro’s independence. I do still think that we could have had a better future together, but only if both sides are willing to work on it. And there is definitely no will in Serbia to resolve any important issues. Serbia is stuck, and if Montenegro is willing to work just that little extra bit harder they might actually see better days.
I only hope all my personal plans work out. Hopefully in a little over a year I’ll no longer be here and I’ll be able to criticise another part of the world, probably without getting too emotionally attached.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Guide to Free Food and Drinks

Free food and drink is everywhere. Opening nights, exhibitions, receptions… Having a friend who is flirting with a bartender also helps.
Last weekend was rather eventful in that sense, as if to celebrate the previous work week – the first week of regular blogging :)
It started with Friday’s performance of Macbeth by the Stockholm Dramaten theatre in the National theatre. The three hours of not too spectacular Shakespeare in Swedish, with some great performances, interesting dramatic solutions and amazing set design and lighting were followed by a champagne party at the excessively gilded upstairs lobby of the theatre.
Then it was off to a bar, where Ivan and I enjoyed our complementary cocktails as our friend was attempting to overcome her hesitation over becoming the other woman and finally hook up with the boy of her dreams.
Saturday’s rainy afternoon was the setting for a reception at an undisclosed western power’s embassy. More then eager waiters insisted that you help yourself to the gorgeous food, every time they walk buy. Not a problem, especially when you’re in canapĂ© heaven. More drinking.
The night ended at a friends birthday party, again drinking too much, dancing and kissing and making a fool of oneself. Lots of fun!
Off course, in a sense, everything comes with a price. Sunday was a blur of hung-over couch-potatoing, and football watching, which admittedly, apart from the fading headache, is not that bad.
The best things in life are free.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Good Fortune

I’m not sure about the rest of the world, but in Serbia it is considered good luck if a bird shits on you. Such an omen of luck just happened to me as I was coming back from my lunch break. It wasn’t even under a tree, but in the middle of the street. A bird in flight simply dropped its lunch on my shoulder. I didn’t feel particularly lucky. It’s just annoying, if anything.
Personally, I am more inclined to view shit raining from above as a sign of misfortune, especially in this age of bird flu, but then, who am I to argue with superstition.
I wonder, though, what this is based on. Is it supposed to represent some sort of karmic equilibrium - that something good will now happen to you as compensation for being shat upon from the heavens? Perhaps it’s about probability? The chance of a piece of bird feces finding you of all people as it falls, randomly dropped by an indifferent bird and shifted by winds might indicate that you are somehow special? Most likely it is an idea conceived by people to comfort themselves after their favorite shirt was ruined by pigeon poop.
Maybe I am lucky. Good fortune didn’t leave a stain.

Could this be the luckiest town on Earth? taken in Venice, Nov 2005

Friday, June 09, 2006

Pain in the blog 2

In what might just become a series of articles, but is already a source of much frustration, I continue to wine about blogging. Last time I wrote about my writing troubles and the pulsating cursor at the end (strictly geographically) of an unfinished sentence which haunts my dreams at night.
I also complained about the lack of audience and its participation.
I’ll stay with this general subject for a while, but approach it from a slightly more technical aspect. I no longer have the instrument of measuring the lack of visitors to my blog. The counter in my Profile telling me how many people have read it, broke down, depriving me of even this modest and very vague but vital piece of statistics. At one point it simply stopped. At 32. I know what one might think - people just stopped coming. No. I had various people visit my page several times, just to make sure it’s broken. And it is.
Off course, I looked for help in all FAQ sections which referred me to support groups who referred me to Blogger help, who in turn referred me back to the FAQs…

Well, I guess I’m off for another round.
To be continued. (in)Definitely…

Thursday, June 08, 2006


If it could only stop raining! I’ve been waiting so long for sun and the summer, and now it’s cold and it has been raining constantly for days. Will this ever end? Heating in June?!?! It’s just wrong. I want to sleep with windows open. I want to be woken up by sunlight. I want heat!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

the Code

Blasphemous as I am, I used the evilest day in history to go and see the anathemised religious pulp-fiction block-buster, as I didn’t get what all the fuss was about. I mean, even if Jesus had a wife and kids, and it ever came out, I didn’t really understand why it would “devastate the foundations of mankind”. It’s not as if Christianity opposes marriage. Anyway, how would anyone be able to prove it? Based on hidden symbols? If you are looking for symbols, chances are you will find them. If one tried, one could probably find evidence that Jesus had a twin brother, who was actually the one married to Mary Magdalene, and crucified by mistake, so that when Jesus appeared, everyone thought he resurrected…
But details of the theory (any theory) are irrelevant. After actually seeing the film, which is, by the way, flat, badly constructed and visually unappealing, I realized that it’s not the story of this mediocre film/book that presents a problem. It is the basic principle of having theories, in the first place. The Christian church (in all its forms) is founded on a version of alleged events many many years ago - events which can themselves never be checked or verified. If you allow someone to dispute a part of this story, the whole story is in jeopardy. Whether someone is the direct descendent of JC or not, isn’t important. (It could never be proven, as there are no remains, and even if there were, how could you prove they really belong to Jesus, or his wife? Anyway, by now, he would have thousands of descendents all over the world, not one single heir.)
Therefore, what the fuss WAS about, is that regardless of whether Jesus existed, and whether he was the son of god, everything that happened after him was the work of men. So theories, such as the one in the film, do not necessarily question divinity of Jesus but the divinity of the church. The film reminds us that at certain points in history the church selected which scriptures to accept or reject, designing a mythology which suits its purposes. The church is a dogmatic structure within which thinking itself is a problem - the right to re-examine. It also reminded us that the church is, among other things, a powerful interest group, a political force, a financial giant, and as such uses any means to protect itself and its various interests, at the expense of anyone who stands in the way, with no more moral justification than others who do the same. So while I don’t believe in any of this anyway, and think this film is quite weak and most probably full of historical inaccuracies and deliberate misinterpretations, I kind of like the underlying tone of separating faith and religion and seriously questioning the other.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

V for Vendetta

On this symbolic date, when the world could, I’m told, come to an end, a short story about one of the better films I’ve seen in a while and things which pose an actual threat to our society.
I expected V to be entertaining, as it was, but the serious and mature outlook was quite unexpected … and very welcome. The film elevates itself far above the typical black-white Hollywood action films. I guess the strong critical references to western societies could shake up a lot of people, primarily in the US, where many of the issues the film deals with are controversial or even taboo. There is a tendency in the world to be superficial and people, especially many Americans, tend to be too touchy about certain subjects and less wiling to discuss them.
But the film is wonderfully universal in condemning oppression in all societies – from obvious references to fascist states to Western democracies struggling with issues of privacy and human rights under threat from conservative governments on one side and dangers like terrorism on the other. More close to home, it is reminiscent of Serbia in the 90s – the sugarcoated TV reporting, the propaganda machine spreading fear and mistrust, the divide-and-conquer tactics of maintaining power by creating enemies everywhere. Consequences of this period are still painfully present and as destructive as ever.
I see this film is a warning that all our actions, or lack there of, have consequences, that as in the famous poem by M. Niemoeler what happens to others eventually reaches us and in the end there might be “no one left to speak out”, if we do not speak out against injustice. If the likes of DSS, the orthodox church, and other conservatives in Serbia and elsewhere had their way I can easily imagine Ivan and I being dragged out of our bed in the middle of the night and disappearing.

I have always been an optimist and hope the world will come to its senses, but with so much human stupidity I have to be worried about the future. Wasting of resources, greed, double standards and false morality are pushing people into ignorance, fear and hate. That makes the warning more powerful and important. This does not just happen in distant countries in a distant time. The film shows what our own societies could mutate into. And in a globalized world, there is no standing aside. A Faithless song says “Whether long range weapon or suicide bomb, wicked mind is a weapon of mass destruction … we need to find courage, overcome, inaction is a weapon of mass destruction”.The key issue is individual responsibility. I’m not happy quoting politicians, but as the assassinated PM of Serbia said, paraphrasing JFK: “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for yourself“. Nobody is going to help us if we do not help ourselves. And responsibility never ends. In a country where the power of people and its ability to push change was so evident, we must not forget it now, as we slide into conservativism and bigotry. “Remember, remember, the fifth of O… November”. Staying silent must not be an option.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Pain in the Blog

This is not how it was suppose to be. I didn’t plan to post once a week.
But writing is proving to be much more difficult then I though. First of all, I never can find the time to do it, as I’m always busy with something else. Then, it’s hard to convert the flood of ideas on any given subject into a coherent piece of writing. I sit down and thoughts rush out, filling my screen with words and beginnings of sentences. But putting them into order and making sense of it, without writing a novel every time is almost painful.
Then self-censorship kicks in. One of the points of starting to write in the first place was examining the balance between private and public (or accessible to the public). And now, I’m having trouble with it. In the last few days important things have happened which will have huge effects on my life, provide material and inspiration and eventually give a whole new meaning and purpose to this blog. However, for now, I still feel they are too specific to let them loose on the internet. At this point I don’t want accidental visitors to (be able to) know who I am, however unlikely it may be, having in mind how huge the world is.
It sound insane. Such paranoia is unjustified (or is it?). In order to lose your privacy there needs to exist an interested public. This blog HAS NO audience. Sure, there have been some visits but nobody leaves any comments, and I have no idea who you people are. I’ve mentioned I was writing a blog to some friends, but deliberately didn’t want to spread it around yet. I wanted to see what happens naturally.
But maybe it would be good to have a couple of friendly regulars. Maybe it’s time for an offensive - getting an audience, establishing a style, determining a level of familiarity with potential readers.
I hope, in time, writing will come more naturally. I’ll pour regular amounts of well-constructed thinking into neat well-written posts on a regular basis to the delight of friends and unknown readers around the world. In the meantime I’ll try and post more often and be as interesting as I can. Thank you all for coming.