Thursday, October 30, 2008

interpritations of a photograph

this is not a picture of women practicing good posture.

i wish it was such a photograph.

in this photograph, they are victims of civil war. in another photography, they might find a new metaphor to fill but in this photograph, they carry burdens which i do not understand.

it is impossible to talk about this story without falling under one of two pitfalls.

racism: the poor africans are at war. ever since western imperialists bestowed the word of god onto them, they've been in a constant state of war. we blew their little minds and its all our fault!

boring: ...why would i waste your time with an example of something boring?

the war in bosnia

i knew a bosnian. in high school, my classmates gave him a nick name. sputnick.

i'm not fucking russian! he told us. and we laughed.

the simple version of this story would be of white middle class americans making fun of the foreign kid. it would be a simple moral dilema.

bosnian kid was popular.

white people love to get offended on the behalf of people like bosnian kid. but this is not my point.

it is this: why do americans trivialize the experience of the refuge? when we make a mockery of it or when we defend it from mockery, there is a level of trivialization that takes place. but i ask this: why shouldn't we trivialize it?

war and genocide are large issues. much too large, you might say, to put in your briefcase and bring home.

in some ways, these issues are as relevant as yesterdays news. ten years ago news. before it even happens, it is in a history book. so last century.

Monday, October 27, 2008

no football. no poverty.

as i type this, i'm getting ready for a political science final. i'm reading a lot of hobbes. personally, i think that hobbes's ideas go downhill after man leaves the state of nature.

the balkans are having an equally difficult time emerging from the state of nature.

as i see it, there is a hidden story to the balkans. its full of adventure and excitement. you don't see the full story in the news.

some news stories cover events. these events are often fragmented, seperated from the ideas that inspired those events.

other news stories, like this one, cover ideas. seperated from the events that shaped them. seperated from the events that are to come.

this information reflects reality but it also shaping a new reality. its not even subtle. i want to know, is it effective? how progressive has the balkans become, honestly?

in search of balkan people

its easy to get lost in big cities. paradoxically, in big cities, it is easy to find small communities centered around your internist.

if you are into balkan dancing, you should check out this website.

two weeks ago, i went to see what it was all about. i also mistook this as a perfect opportunity to bring a date.

as it turns out, balkan dancing was popular in the 70s. all sorts of ethnic dancing was popular in the 70s. and the hobby survives today because of people who did it in the 70s.

to my slight surprise and to my date's tragic discovery, no alcohol was served at this dance.

to my surprise, there were much more non-balkan people than actual balkan people. a young bulgarian couple came later in the evening and they told me that in their country, young people do not care about traditional folk dancing. but when they come to america, they said, they are drawn to it because it reminds them of home.

this nostalgia for a time that never existed is fascinating. isn't it?

these last two weeks, i have been exploring other chanels. i have yet to find my person. at this point, i'm a bit frightened for myself. i am running out of time.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

history of kosovo

after reading just a few articles from balkan newspapers, i noticed that journalism is done quite differently out there. primarily, they don't even attempt to give any event context. there is a greater expectation on readers to figure things out on their own. of course, i could accept that balkan citizens probably (most definitely) know more about the whose who of the balkans than i do.

lucky for me, there are great websites full for information.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

kosovo declares independence

nothing is so fragmented as international news coverage. it makes sense because there is just too damn much ground to cover. the relationship between kosovo and serbia is a mystery to me and it should be a mystery to you. if it is not a mystery, please give me your phone number so we can talk about it on the telephone.

as far as i can remember (and that is not very much) serbia always wears the black hat. from the first world war and onward, the serbs have been the bad guys.

the latest installment into the great balkan spagetti western, the ethnic albanians of kosovo have declared their independence. the entire globe seems to be happy for the albanians. the entire world, except russia and serbia.

as the back story goes, the albanians were victims to a great genocide.

is there more to this story? or is this a case where the world really is as unilateral as it appears?

see these articles:
Serbia: Kosovo's independence not in accordance with international law
Serbia challenge to Kosovo independence goes to U.N.
Gates says U.S. forces will remain in Kosovo
UAE recognizes Kosovo's independence
Montenegro Government not to withdraw recognition

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

on the road with the enemy

giddy as a hipster who just discovered the next big thing in music, i called up all my friends and enemies to spread the news.

two photojournalists spoke sunday at the university of washington about their experiences on the road with the iraqi resistance.

they showed us photographs of weeping mothers, dead children and men with guns. we saw anti-american slogans juxtaposed with the most inspiring optimism. iraq is in shambles but there is something happening there. there is a spirit that the mainstream media often overlooks.

i always knew there was more to the story than meets-the-eye but i am the type of person who needs someone to spell it out for him in big bold refrigerator magnets.

outside the auditorium lecture hall was a long table offering additional perspective. various political leftists gave away pamphlets like advertisements for their own version of the truth. they have reviewed the facts and they are ready to tell us what they mean.

i was looking for a book or something i could buy and take away from the lecture. a quiet young man with buzz short hair and a rusty beard aproached me and asked me questions regarding my awareness. i don't remember what he asked me because he wasn't offering me anything i was looking for.

then he dug his hooks in. he was a veteran, like myself. he served for a short period of time in the military but decided it wasn't for him. we had something in common.

he joined to be a cook. then they wanted him to learn to shoot a 50 cal. he didn't want anything to do with that, he said. those guns are designed to pop people like water baloons.

a fat woman congradulated him. she admired him and he enjoyed her admiration.

i had no sympathy for the man. i probably would have said something but i was quite dissapointed by my failure to find what i wanted. also, his story was boring.

i had too much empathy for his situation. i joined the navy as a journalist but i never really found my place. i was moved around a lot and i never really felt like anybody wanted me around. my girlfriend's mom didn't want to see me around, either.

when i got to feeling down and sorry for my situation people would remind me that i joined the military. you're in the navy, now! what did you expect?

there is part of me that could relate to him. this is a very complicated part. i'm not so ashamed of that part but it certainly is not a source of pride.

i took my seat in the auditorium between my ex-girlfriend and an older gentleman who i did not know. i told them about the people outside.

if i was talking to that man right now, i would tell him that his sudden flash of nobility was bullshit.

everybody in the military is in the business of killing people. it does not matter if you shoot the gun or not. if you clean the gun, if you feed the man who cleans the gun, if you photograph that man receiving an award for all the other men he's killed, it does not matter. you are a wheel or a cog in a machine and you volunteered yourself to do it.

when you join the military, you condone the war. there is no weasiling out of it. you may have joined for college money. maybe some judge cut you a deal to keep you out of jail. nobody joins the millitary because they love the idea of war. they've been bought and sold on some abstract idea. like family heritage.

the older man next to me was with a group called veterans for peace. he went to high schools to talk to kids about not joining the military, that there are other options. often, these options are not as attractive. certainly, there are few people out there who will try to market them to you. except this old man, sitting next to me.

this is the media landscape. there is a lot of noise out there and you have to get wise to sort through it all.

there are significant evens happening out there and these events are like bright lights that attract moths. each individual media outlet is drawn to these significant points of interist and they each bring their own agenda.

their photographers provided the singlemost significant perspective that i have yet to witness. there agenda is simple. look at what i have seen, they told us. and think about it. how does the world mannage to, time and time again, push people into these circumstances?

i encourage everybody to visit the website. look at the pictures. pass them on.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

everything i know about the balkans, i learned at a dive bar

i am typically a shy person and will not talk to strangers, especially attractive young women. i mostly keep to myself. i can recall very few situations in which i have managed to successfully engage conversation with strangers without pretext.
one situation happened last winter. i was on the bus, returning to capitol hill from ballard. two girls got on the bus in fremont and sat in the seats across from me. one of them was quite the vivacious little number with short dark hair and small features and the other was a tall bookish type with long hair and a rather vertical face. both of them were quite attractive.
when they started to speak, my interist could only grow. such a white person i am, a sucker for girls with cute accents.
"where are you ladies from?" i asked them, using my phoney mochismo voice.
croatia and macedonia. exotic, isn't it?
the punky girl (was she wearing glittery tights?) was not very comfortable speaking english and she let the bookish macedonian girl do all the talking.
"i regret to confess that the only thing i know about croatia is from when bill clinton sent troops into your country. do you remember that?"
of course they remembered that.
"i am very impressed that you know about that," the macedonian girl said to me. "most people don't know."
i suspect that she was just being nice. none the less, i felt that i had accomplished something spectacular on the bus with the two women and built up the courage to get their phone numbers.
we talked then about things to do in seattle and they both complained that people in seattle do not know how to party. people go to bed too early here, they told me.
i suspect that dance parties in the balkans go all night.
if i was wise, i would have gone home and compiled a comprehensive history of both croatia and macedonia and of course their relationship to the united states. i did not do that. i don't know very much at all about the balkans.

here are some recent articles published in the new york times regarding bosnia:
feb 2007: a group of people from serbia have been convicted of genocide. it is important to note that the country of serbia itself is not responsible for the genocide. this distinction is subtle and debatable. some people feel that serbia should have a better handle on its people. i think this killing happened in bosnia?
marh 2008: hillary clinton went to bosnia. the first lady said people were shooting at her when she got off the plant. hollywood comedian sinbad said nobody was shooting at anybody. its good to know that bill isn't the only one who lies in that relationship. i wonder if sinbad would have taken a bullet for the first lady?
august 2008: remember the genocide? let me tell you something about the military genius behind it. he's had a rough life. at a young age, his father was murdered. he was raised by his poor mother. when he finally had a family of his own, his daughter took his favorite pistol to kill herself. things are pretty crazy out there in bosnia.

here are some stories about serbia:
may 2007: remember the genocide? serbia is sorry. now, they want to lead the anti-genocide counsil of europe. lots of people don't understand how this is possible.
feb 2008: kosovo declared indipednance from serbia! the albanians are sick and tired of the genocide (see contradiction above). the western world is happy for the albanians and for that, the serbians are resentful. naturaly, the land of kosovo holds some religious significance to the serbians. america is caught in the middle, somewhere. we want to be friends with everybody!
sept 2008: remember the military genious behind the genocides? the serbians caught him and he will be punished. somehow, this completes the twelth step of the genocide anonymous program and serbia is ready to join the european union and possibly lead in anti-genocide counsils. the netherlands are not convinced.

this is some news about montenegro:
dec 2006: the russians are coming! this seems to be a motif of balkan history. did you see when this article was posted?
1981: its not just a movie!

there seems to be a theme here. the new york times cares about foreign affairs when they involve one of three things: 1) the president or his wife 2) genocide 3) sweedish women

the weekend after meeting the balkan women on the bus, i met up with them at the bar. i tried to take them both to the symphony with me because i felt that would be the appropriate white person thing to do. they didn't want to go because it was too early.
we met up at a dive bar where it was too loud to talk and it was too crowded to dance, which might have been for the best because i'm a terrible dancer. it would give you nightmares.
the bookish girl said they had to go home early to do homework and get rest before class in the morning. the crazy girl wanted to smoke pot and go dancing at the gay bar. it was quite the eurotrash moment and i was reveling in it. but the bookish girl didn't want any of that.

i never saw or heard from them again.