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Baby, Baby (Or: Why Birth Rates Matter)

Posted on July 29, 2012

In Kosovo, people still have babies. Not as many as they once did, perhaps, and not so many that nobody wishes for more, but they still fill the bunkbeds around here. They make sure that my front stoop, for instance, has the tell-tale hearts and scratched-out names of fickle teen romance carved into its side, and it seems required that my bedroom window be hit (hard) by a football at least once every week. Note the plural: in Kosovo, they have babies. With an “s.” These are not the long-shot, fertility pill-aided one-offs familiar to (say) New Yorker subscribers back home near the Empire’s center. These are not the lonesome little Augustens and Caits we see peering from the rear windows of Audis as…

Reductio Ad Abserbum

Posted on July 25, 2012

In yesterday’s post concerning UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Kosovo, I addressed SG Ban’s late arrival by cynically noting that “the first rule of power is make ‘em wait.” I wasn’t wrong, really — just a little sunburnt and surly — but new reports from Koha Ditore indicate that my aim may have been a bit off. There’s a first (not first) time for everything, I guess. According to the Pristina daily, the power in question was not exercised by Secretary-General Ban at the expense of us rapidly reddening journos, but instead by Serbian border authorities at the expense of the UN. Though Ban’s meetings with the Nikolić government in Belgrade were characterized by calls for “dialogue” (that grandly disingenuous modern favorite!) and…

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Visits Kosovo

Posted on July 24, 2012

In the course of my unrelated-to-Disney-movies-from-the-‘90s duties, it sometimes happens that I attend media events – such as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Pristina International Airport earlier this afternoon. Here’s how, loyal reader, it went down. First rule of power is you make ‘em wait, and so there we waited, shuffling and tripping over camera wires as incremental delay after incremental delay was announced. A mixed crowd of local and regional journalists (plus yours truly), we buzzed around in a collective, multilingual “nic fit” until the UN turboprop taxied in, depositing Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon into a crowd of flower-bearing courtiers whose hands were shaken in (presumable) order of seniority as he made his way to the dais. The speech itself was fairly pro…

The Lion King: Balkans Edition

Posted on July 21, 2012

So last night I was persuaded to watch Disney’s The Lion King for the first time ever. I know it’s meant to be a classic, you know, a modern myth and a watershed moment as far as big-budget animation goes… but it came out in 1994. I was 16 then, and at that age you tend to be reflexively scornful of mass-market blockbusters, and intent instead on making sure the record-store clerk is aware that you knew who the Smithereens were before Kurt Cobain started talking about them (untrue in my case, and yes, it’s consumerism all the way down). In any case, I watched it a bit too late in life, I guess, or maybe I’m just in a Kosovo state of mind.…

Kosovo & The Destruction Of The Pyramids

Posted on July 12, 2012

Yesterday morning, a small outlet known as the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) released a story indicating that “prominent Muslim clerics” within Egypt have begun to call for the demolition of the Pyramids at Giza. This, of course, was instantly seized upon by the right-wing media as yet another symbol of the failure of the Arab Spring, the fanaticism of Egypt’s clerical class, and the crazed, demonic intolerance of Islam in general. A few hours after the wide dissemination of this frightening and off-putting news item, it was revealed to be a hoax of the lowest order, having been sourced from a “parody Twitter account.” In a previous post – my first – I warned of the danger posed by “worldview-confirming lies,” so consider…

Hello, Pristina

Posted on July 10, 2012

I arrived at Pristina in the middle of the night, descending into a heat wave on a lightning-troubled plane – but wait. That’s so dramatic. Can we say instead that I took a points ticket from Vienna, reading American magazines and devouring the complimentary sponge-cake? Both seem accurate, but truth tends to lie between the extremes. Or does it? For a million reasons, this place seems designed to test that theory. Had you told me a year ago that I would be sitting here right now, drinking “Lasko” brand beer and waiting for the water to come back on, I would have thought you were crazy. Interesting, perhaps, but equipped with one of the cloudier crystal balls. Six months ago, I could not have…