Saturday, October 14, 2006

Little man, what now?

I am a woman of few passions. I’m not always proud of being so rational and cynical when it comes to most things but I guess that’s far better than being on the other side of the extreme.

One of the few things I’m completely passionate and irrational about is my love and admiration for the singer/songwriter Morrissey. Our intellectual romance started when I was exactly twelve. I was celebrating my birthday and waiting for my brother to bring me some big shiny present from his recent trip to London. Imagine my disappointment when I unwrapped it and saw this record called “The Queen is Dead” by the band I’ve never heard of. All I wanted was something girly and pink, what was he thinking?

After the frowning days were over I decided to give it a try. My knowledge of English was still limited enough to disable me from fully understanding the lyrics but I was into the tunes so I kept on humming them, not realizing that “smash every tooth in your head” is not exactly the most cheerful thing in the world.

Within the next year or two I already owned everything that The Smiths and Morrissey ever recorded. I was known as a woman with big red curly hair and a Morrissey t-shirt. I’ve had “Morrissey” written on every textbook in about 300 different handwritting techniques. That was all I talked about. That was the only criteria I’ve used to determent whether certain people were worth my while or not. Needless to mention that not so many 14 year olds in Serbia were into Smiths so it’s safe to say I didn’t really spend too much time socialising with my overly hormone-driven peers.

At the tender age of 15 someone told me that they’re going to see Morrissey play in London and I was totally determent to convince my parents to let me go too. Needless to say they almost chocked of laughter once that idea came up. I was still determent to go, even if that meant running away from home. I almost made it, if only I had the money or the legal ability to travel without my parent’s presence and consent.

As the very tough 90s went by I kept on following Morrissey and kept on buying his records but completely gave up on ever seeing him in a live gig. I didn’t even check his tour schedules because I simply knew that he dropped out of geography before his class was introduced to my part of the planet. Imagine my surprise when I saw his name and "EXIT festival, Serbia" in the same sentence. To say I was over the moon would be as innacurate as to say that people who find "Da Vinci Code" to be the best book in the world are only slightly annoying.

To spare you of all the obscure descriptions of me jumping, fainting, crying and singing at the same time I will tell you one thing – to true fans, Morrissey gigs are like crystal-meth. You know they’re not good for your health but how could you resist when they put you in heaven? Once they’re over, all you want to do is either jump off the bridge or spend a ridiculous amount of money and travel for miles to experience it again. What they say about hard drugs works for Morrissey gigs to – you can’t do it just “one time”, once you go there, there’s no going back!

In any case, once his little Serbian adventure was over all I kept on thinking about was where to get my new Moz-live fix. His tour schedule consisted of these really cheap-to-get-to neighbouring countries such as Iceland, Ireland or Spain so I slowly and unwillingly had to give it up. Six weeks intensive therapy almost got me to the point where I believed that, even without going to another Morrissey gig by the end of the year, everything will be alright. I was this close to being a happy person again, then November and December dates started popping up and there we went again! I'm such an underachiever ..

I think this is the point where I should also mention that I’ve been jobless since June. I’m pretty much going through that depressing low-budget period where fun time doesn’t include dining out and partying until your liver craves proper medical attention. List of things I can afford consists of “food”, “electricity” and “one pair of winter shoes” therefore going to another country just to see someone play for 1 hour 20 minutes is pretty much out of the question.

That’s just about where the rational me ends and the irrational me begins. The reason why I’m writing this blog in the first place is so that I could stop staring at my credit card and stop being so bloody tempted to go online and spend 300+ euros on his upcoming gig in Greece. I keep on hoping he’ll announce a date in a more affordable country he hasn’t gone to this year, but how likely is it that we’ll get to see him in Bosnia or Macedonia anyway?

That is why I’m now reaching my all time low by typing blogs just to spend time until my very rational boyfriend comes home and gently talks me out of it. I already know there’s no way we could afford it so I really don’t know why I need this to come out of his mouth too. What I’m really truly hoping to hear is “Dear, it’s perfectly alright for you to go, I’ve always wanted to starve anyway”. Come to think of it, maybe we could speed the dying process up by spending the electricity budget and doing Greece together! I'm sure Greece is the perfect place to start looking for that one pair of winter shoes, isn't that right? ... Anyone?

Monday, May 29, 2006

First of the gang to live

Many people would say that their high-school days were a sheer nightmare but I wouldn’t. I actually think those 4 years I’ve spent there were among the best years of my life. I thoroughly enjoyed the crowd and the fun we had and I indeed missed it once I started my studies. I gained a lot of friends in that grim-looking building and, although I keep contact with a mere 5-6 people right now, I often think about others and wonder how they’re doing right now.

This March I came to the conclusion that it’s been 10 years since we graduated and that we should somehow celebrate it. I called a few friends, asked them for advice and we decided to organize it in June. We set the dates and informed everyone of our dinner-cocktail-drinking plans. People seemed genuinely happy about our little get-together and some even cancelled their travel plans just to be able to make it.

Besides being over the moon about seeing old friends, I must admit I didn’t really take this reunion too seriously. I feel as if I’m going out with people I just saw a month ago. I’m not going to wear anything special and I have no busy & important stories to tell. I am me, always was and always will be, and I see no point in making a huge life-makeover just to impress people who anyway know how bad I can look on Monday mornings and who I could bump into any day of the year (usually looking like hell while out just to buy cigarettes)

That is why I was a bit surprised to hear that many of my classmates are, in fact, preparing for all this. I caught a few of them dressing-to-impress at our newly-opened fancy shopping-mall. Few of them are frequenting tanning salons and a few others have been dieting and going to the gym just to appear slimmer, sexier and more successful then they actually are. Two have been studying like hell just so that they could rapidly finish their degree and, in order to seal their success in personal life, some are even getting married around that date. Not all of this is done just for the reunion sake but I guess 10-years-since-we-graduated-highschool had at least a little something to do with it.

This made me wonder - I did not prepare! The facts would tell you that I didn’t buy new clothes for the occasion, I’m not slimmer then I was the last time they saw me (quite the opposite), I didn’t finish my degree, I haven’t got a fancy job and my boyfriend and I are happily living in sin without seriously thinking of getting married or having kids any time soon. On the other hand, I am so beyond these facts! Looking back, I have lived my twenties just the way I wanted to live them – traveling, expanding my social circle, enhancing my knowledge and skills in many areas, working hard and playing even harder. I didn't achieve everything I wanted to but with all this I did, who gives a damn about the statistics? I will anyway have all my life to live up to them. Judging by the way the time flies, 20 years since graduating high-school is just around the corner so I therefore solemnly promise to become completely standardized by then. As if!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Belgrade Film Festival (part one)

Another Belgrade Film festival (FEST) is on it’s way and I did my best to catch a few movies so that I could have my say about it. FEST was always a mish-mash of Hollywood and the rest of the planet. Last year they’ve tried to scrap Hollywood A-listers but the somewhat lower attendance made them once again revive that concept. So, in between fabulous movies from places like Kazahstan, Korea or South Africa, we’ve had a chance to enjoy various Oscar-nominated blockbusters such as "Brokeback Mountain", "Walk the Line", "Good Night and Good Luck", "Capote", "The Constant Gardener" and "Crash".

Although I’m not sure I consider FEST a movie festival in the real sense of the word, it certainly does lift the otherwise low winter spirits and gives you something to do and something to talk about. The feeling that overcomes you once you find tickets for everything you wanted to see is priceless. Most of these movies are not entirely brilliant but who cares? As long as you can run around different screenings, feel very important to be among the few to see them and then brag about it in front of you friends, they’re just about the best thing film industry can offer.

FEST’s definite downers are all those self-centered arrogant know-it-all film critics. I am not against critics as such (I am one) but I simply can’t stand those who put much more effort into appearing clever then, well, saying something meaningful. It never seizes to amaze me how they manage to blab on and on and on without ever reaching the point. By the time they’re done talking, you’ll know everything about the way the lights are put but nothing about the actual quality of the movie. That upsets me so much that I’m thinking of becoming one next year, just to prove it’s possible to express an opinion that you’re anyway paid to have.

The other thing I dislike comes from the organisational side of things. While the best timings and cinema theatres are given to Hollywood blockbusters, more “alternative” movies are shown during working hours and in theatres that are not big enough to even host my immediate family. Most of you would think that’s logical but it’s really not. Hollywood blockbusters will anyway go into the regular movie distribution which is not the case with all those other movies that we’ll only get the chance to see during the festival. Although I understand the financial aspects of this decision I still think there should be a better balance between the two because alternative movies do have a substantial audience around here. If only we weren’t forced to miss them because they are screened during our working hours or because those miniature cinemas were sold out, we could have proved it. Now I’m forced to use “alternative channels” to find those I missed out on and you know how I hate that, don’t you?

Due to time restrains, I have managed to see only 4 movies so far and will see at least 4 others throughout the coming weekend. I haven’t seen any of the blockbusters so if you’re waiting to hear me dwell over the “Brokeback mountain” please come again. As for those movies I actually saw, chronologically I’ve enjoyed watching:

The death of Mr. Lazarescu (Moartea Domnului Lazarescu, Romania 2005, directed by Cristi Puiu)

Plot summary (taken from IMDB): Mr. Lazarescu, a 63 year old lonely man feels sick and calls the ambulance. When it arrives the doctor decides he should take him to the hospital but once there, they decide to send him to another hospital and then yet another... As the night unfolds and they can't find a hospital for Mr. Lazarescu, his health starts to deteriorate fast.

My verdict: What a great movie. What a great movie! This movie is the best portrayal of the ways the health system is failing to help the ageing and poor I’ve ever seen in a while! Actor Ion Fiscuteanu is extremely convincing in his role of the pensioner Mr. Lazarescu, a widower who lives in the outskirts of Bucharest. After suffering sickness and migrens he decides to call the Emergency service and after a struggle to get them to pay him a visit, his incredibly painful 6 hour odissey around Bucharest hospitals begins. Although the title is a bit of a spoiler, the movie is so tense and emotional all the way through, you cannot help but feeling sad for Mr. Lazarescu and angry at the health care system that’s failing to notice him early enough to save his life. I can relate to this movie so much that I give it 9/10.

What’s a man without a mustache? (Što je muškarac bez brkova?, Croatia 2005, directed by Hrvoje Hribar)

Plot summary: A young widow, an aging widower-returnee, and a priest from a bankrupt parish are struggling to come to terms with the post-war environment, complete with its prejudices, illusions, and unpleasant mentality. What follows is a romantic comedy set in rough landscape, about a woman who falls in love with a local priest. He is not blind to her love, but is unable to choose between the church and her, until the circumstances force him to make his choice.

My verdict: This movie was widely publicized as the best croatian comedy ever. I can’t say whether that’s true – haven’t seen all croatian comedies and, to be frank, I didn’t really see this as a comedy, rather as a drama with a few funny lines. Nevertheless, this movie represents a big step forward in croatian cinematography because it’s not entirely bad. The acting is decent, the plot a bit obvious but bareable – all in all it’s a relaxing movie, a bit of a nobrainer, but a good kind of a nobrainer. Having in mind that it was based on a book by an author I actually like, I give it 7/10

Last Days (USA 2005, directed by Gus van Sant)

Plot summary: The inspiration for the film were the events of the final days of Kurt Cobain, lead singer of Nirvana, who, depressed and drugged-up, put a bullet into his head in 1994. Blake, the protagonist, is an introspective artist whose success has left him in a lonely place, where livelihoods rest on his shoulders and old friends regularly tap him for money and favors. He mumbles, shuffles from one part of his estate to the other, loses and regains consciousness, practices guitar and hides from strangers and colleagues, among others from his music producer, who wants new material. We follow Blake through a handful of hours he spends in and near his wooded home, a fugitive from his own life.

My verdict: This is one of those movies that you either profoundly hate or genuinely like and I put myself in the second group. I thought Gus van Sant and the leading actor Michael Pitt did a great job in portrtaying a tormented heroin addict/rock star Blake in the days leading up to his suicide. Although the movie dynamic was not always right, the scenario was convincing enough for me to believe it. I could really feel Blake’s pain and anguish, his fatigue and need for soltitude and I thought it was great they managed to display it without relying so much on dramatization and dialogues. Although many angry underage visitors left FEST claiming that this was “like, the worst movie about Kurt Cobain, ever” newsflash is that Kurt’s last days only served as an inspiration for the movie and not as a base for copy/paste. The intention was not to reenact what actually happened to Cobain but to use parts of his personal tragedy and inner chaos as a base for Pitt’s character Blake. I thought it was done well and I give it an 8.5/10 (this 0.5 goes especially to the brief appearance of Sonic Youth bassist/vocalist Kim Gordon)

Dark horse (Voksne mennesker, Denmark/Iceland 2005, directed by Dagur Kari)

Plot summary: Offbeat comedy about Daniel, a somewhat irresponsible but charming young graffiti artist who who lives in Copenhagen and doesn't care even though everybody is trying to track him down: Parking attendants, landlords, bills and the police. One day he falls in love with Franc, a girl just as irresponsible and charming as he is. All of a sudden his easy-going days are over and he is face to face with a serious leap of faith. Things change and they start having unexpected money problems. The fates of these youngsters are linked up with the parallel tale of a well-situated but extremely bored judge.

My verdict: It’s an interesting and well-directed comedy/drama with lots of funny and sometimes not-so-funny twists and turns. It’s an easy-going movie that occasionally makes you laugh your heart out. I especially liked the role of Daniel’s best friend Morfar (Grandad) played by Nicholas Bro - his obsession with becoming a football referee is sheer classic. Other characters are also developed and portrayed well by their respective actors. Although ending needs more work, the movie is well rounded up and catchy enough to be interesting for a wider audience. I liked it and using no particular criteria I give it 8/10

So, as you can see, I haven’t seen that many movies but at least they were worth my while. In the coming three days I plan to watch a new movie by Atom Egoyan “Where the truth lies”, “A little trip to heaven” as an hommage to my small obsession with Icelandic film-making, a movie called “Saratan” from Kyrghistan and UK’s very own “Mrs. Henderson presents”. If I find the time (and tickets) maybe I’ll also drop by “Darwin’s nightmare” or whatever second showing FEST has to offer. If you’ve seen any of the movies I saw, or any of the movies I plan to see, time to express your opinions is: right now.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

People get real

Last Tuesday, media world-wide announced the arrest of Ratko Mladic. During those four hours of “he’s arrested” and “no, he’s not arrested” I went through a real emotional rollercoaster of “whoo-hooo!!” and “god, do me a favor and make me explode!”. I won’t waste my words on media sensationalism but it’s a brainteaser why even those credible fell for it. I do entertain myself with various theories but don’t dare to believe them cause they’re way too realistic. Let’s swallow the one that they all made a mistake by trusting a crappy local TV station in Bosnia and hope the time will tell. Duh!

Right after my blood pressure went back to normal, Serbia once again appeared in the global news on Friday. One would wish it happened because we finally got rid of the bastard but sadly, the answer is a-a. I was really unpleasantly surprised to see the amount of media attention given to the pro-Mladic rally held by the popular right-wing Serbian Radical Party who’s president now enjoys the hospitality of a certain tribunal in the Hague. If I was an outsider, I would have mistaken this rally for something significant enough to appear on BBC World news. However, since I’m not and I actually had a chance to see it on my way from work, all I can say is that it didn’t look all that relevant to me. Serbia certainly doesn’t lack headline material but this rally simply wasn’t it. Not only that the Serbian Radical Party failed to gather a substantial amount of followers to make it look decent, they didn’t even manage to persuade all party officials to make an appearance. Now, how embarassing is that?

Having said that, you won’t see me claim this event for an entirely naïve and undisturbing gathering of likeminded individuals. They disturb me just by existing. Most of the things their party officials said was just the uber populist trash that I’ve already learned to ignore. However, once their acting president came out and ordered Mladic to do the “honorable thing” and commit suicide if he gets caught I was like – what? Where do you come from – the middle ages?

I’m not disturbed by the fact that this bloodthirsty wannabe totalitarian thinks it’s quite acceptable for anyone to blow their brains off, I’m disturbed by a fact that people who lead this country actually share this view. I won’t shed tears over Mladic’s eventual death but I would rather see him have his day in court. I think this country and my fellow countrymen lived in denial for a long while and sorry, but the whole “god forbid we face the music” philosophy has got to end somewhere and putting Mladic to trial might actually be it. People need to understand that he’s wanted for a reason and not because of some world-wide conspiracy against our little but neverhteless utterly important country called Serbia. Thousands of people have died and that didn’t happen due to unknown mystical forces in a galaxy far, far away but due to certain individuals and not very far from where I’m sitting right now. I hear people say that we need to move on but I can’t really see how that’s possible while those responsible remain at large and protected by the state-based structures. Not only that these state-based structures protect those responsible - they also consist of those responsible. So, when we put the two and two together we can't do anything else but conclude: Mladic is a big chapter but the book is much more thick.

To sum up – as long as we don’t deal with the past and those who were supposed to stay in the past we will never have much of a future. Right now it feels like we’ll never get there but there were times when I thought we would never get rid of Milosevic and hey, we eventually did. I do feel a bit tired of everything and everyone and doing things the hard way and yes, I'm a bit upset with how things turned out to be but it’s just a phaze and this stupid winter isn’t helping either.

Spring, anyone?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Crime and punishment

Some of you may have noticed I was missing but I was gone for a reason. I was studying international law for an exam I’ll be taking tomorrow. Preparation was both challenging and entertaining. On one hand, I really had to have a lot of will power to come on top of it. On another hand, you can imagine that reading about the international law from a book written by one of top Milosevic’s aidees is nothing short of fun. However, although I am a realist, I couldn’t help feeling sad to see how far this world moved from it’s own standards. “Man is a wolf to a man”, or something quite like it.

Last weeks I had much trouble sleeping. I would stay up until 4 or even 5 am trying to grasp all those Conventions and Agreements that noone seems to respect anyway. I couldn’t always concentrate so I’ve spent hours surfing the internet, waiting for my next wave of productivity to hit in. At some point I ran into the Crime Library, website that gathers descriptions of infamous criminal cases. Since I’m in a way interested in criminology (well, in the crime TV series at least!) I’ve started reading it through and felt quite ok until I read about that case of murdered backpackers in Australia, back in the early 90s.

People, I’ve never felt so sick in my life. Seriously, I only read a few paragraphs and I felt ill and needed to lie down. I switched my computer off and couldn’t catch my breath for a minute. I felt so much for those poor people and was really disgused with the way they died. I tried sleeping but couldn’t do it until 7am. I just couldn’t get those pictures out of my head. So much for a bit of rest and relaxation, makes me never want to leave home again!

When I woke up this morning I read that the trial to those who allegedly stole Munch’s paintings started (and was immediately delayed) today. I was lucky enough to be able to see those paintings before they were stolen and the very thought that I might not be able to see them again is somewhat upsetting. I’ve heard that the alleged robbers could face up to 17 years in prison if they’re convicted and that seems like nothing in comparison to the fact they stripped this world off those masterpieces. However, better something then nothing. In Serbia they would probably get elected for Parliament and become mass superstars. Coming to think of it, that might be a bigger punishment then one could imagine. Honestly!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I know what you might do next summer

I've heard that a famous architect Corbusier once called Belgrade «the ugliest city in the most beatiful location in the world». The second part of that statement might define the first: due to its strategic position between East and West, Belgrade was attacked and demolished many times and was never rebuilt the way it deserves. However, calling Belgrade «the ugliest» is a step too far. It isn't Paris but it has its charm.

Recently, a renowed guide-book publisher Bradt issued a new Guide to Belgrade, written by Laurence Mitchell. I only threw a glimpse at it and was happy to see Belgrade praized for so many different things, primarily atmnosphere, people, cuisine, nightlife and safety. Amongst other things, what caught my eye was that the author underlined low prices several times thus naming Belgrade the most affordable capital in the South-East Europe.

Ok. Exciting? Sure. Cheap? Depends. If you come from one of those countries where the price of dinner equals the price of a diamond necklace then, sure. Otherwise, I wouldn't find Belgrade to be that cheap – I go shopping abroad for a reason. However, I'm not the target audience for this guidebook so I won't jump to conclusions. You'll just have to come and see for yourselves.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Join our club

Most of the ESIBians reading this know that I'm trying to organize an Alumni meeting during the BM50 that will be held in Belgrade, this May. I'm still not sure whether I'll manage to pull this through but I keep on trying. Lately I've been tracking down all our former directors and EC members in order to make the invitation list more complete. I was really pleasantly surprised to see how many of our long-gone members became truly successful and achieved in their post-ESIB lives. One of our former directors is a chairperson of one of ISO sectors, one of former chairpersons was an advisor to the former chief of state, we have a number of local, regional and national MPs, a number of renowed scholars, lawyers, economists, humanitarian workers ..

Only 8 out of 80 people couldn't be tracked down by a single Google entry. Doesn't that make you feel proud?