Saturday, November 29, 2008

The First (!?) Macedonian webcomics: Vlado’s World

At last an independent Macedonian artist has started publishing a genuine webcomics [MKD].

The artist Vlado Janevski has posted several ironic-autobiographical strips on his blog, made in English:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Paris: Street Protests against Education Budget Cuts

Last Sunday the protestors filled the streets of Paris, demonstrating against the decisions of the French Government to cut the education budget, while using public money to subsidize banks, using the financial crisis as an excuse.

Numerous leftist political parties, unions and groups took part in the protest. For me as a visitor it was interesting to whiteness the diverse demographics of the participants, both in regard to gender and age. I tried to document the various message spreading techniques by this small video made with a mobile phone:

Such tools included disseminating lyrics from protest songs and slogans on paper (leaflets), groups of drummers using professional drums or plastic cans, while using balloons as effective placards was a novelty to me. Concerning logistics, the march included vans selling sandwiches to the participants, and other logistics. The walk took many kilometers, through several main Paris boulevards.

In fact, the most effective noise-making tool available to individual persons seems to be the cowbell, like those on the photo. Their sound travels very far with high quality.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Macedonia: Fighting Corruption with Online Video

In order to aid the fight against corruption, and for increasing transparency and accountability of the government, the Macedonian blogs Komunikacii and Panta Rei published several video-clips used by citizens to document abuse of power in the municipality of Centar, а constituent part of the Macedonian capital Skopje.

The clips posted on YouTube contain fragments of conversations with the municipal officials and public servants who allegedly refrained from removal of illegal buildings under their jurisdiction. This online video aspect of the "Platina" case—named after the building company—was first revealed by the Nova Makedonija daily, and was also reported by the portal Taratur.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Gamers as a media target, symptom of wider discrimination

This is sort of a follow up-prequel to the article I published on Global Voices Online:
Regardless if a person considers oneself a gamer or not, I think they should become concerned by the pattern of discrimination labeling group by group as abnormal, wasteful, and dangerous even. And this does not concern the various breeds of geeks only, it’s not just about technophobia. As Umberto Eco points out in his essay “Eternal Fascism,” the nascent forms of such movements incite the fear of difference.

Articles inciting fear of a minority can incite real problems for its members (“What does he do in his spare time? Playing DotA or Counter Strike? How can I employ this guy, he can go postal any minute.”), but seem to fit into divide and rule tactics used against the society as a whole. Instead of becoming united, Macedonian society becomes segmented into ever smaller, isolated groups which can be easily branded as freaks and dealt with as part of some final solution scheme.

Considering all of the above, I dared to paraphrase the antifascist quote by the German pastor Martin Niemoeller:
“First they came for the hackers,
but I was not a hacker so I did not speak out.
Then they came for the pirates, forgetting that Jesus said:
“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone”,
but I did not resell other people’s software, so I did not speak out.
Then they came for the gamers,
but I did not consider myself a gamer so I did not speak out.
And when they came to hunt the bloggers down,
there was no one left to speak out for me.”
Does this make sense to you? If yes, help raising awareness by digging the article, or join the discussions (in Macedonian) on Kajmakot or Blogeraj.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Blog about the poetry of Jovan Koteski launched

Jovan Koteski

A blog dedicated to the poetry of Jovan Koteski (1932-2001), containing his complete published works and personal archives was released this week by his daughter. The famous Macedonian poet has suffered decades of "Kafikian" persecution and surveillance by the former communist regime. Entire content of the blog is free to use for noncommercial purposes on condition of attribution.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Macedonia: Greek Pacifists' Visit

Anastas Vangeli posted his impressions of the anti-nationalistic and anti-militaristic Greek-Macedonian Dialogue which took place last Saturday - in Macedonian and English. The participants were branded as traitors in the Greek media, and the Metropolitan of the Greek Orthodox Church put an anathema on them in his Sunday sermon.

(First published by Global Voices Online)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Macedonia: Bloggers Emphasize Need for Open Communication with Greece

by Filip Stojanovski for Global Voices Online (15.05.2008).

Amid the internal turmoil caused by Greek actions to block Macedonia's accession to NATO and the EU, and due to an increasing number of reports of attacks over Macedonian truck drivers (official reaction) by nationalist mobs in Greece, many Macedonian bloggers are attempting to bridge the gap of ignorance existing between the two nations. On the one hand, they've identified the need to pass information about Macedonians to Greeks, and, on the other hand, some have taken to the task to share information from Greek media with fellow Macedonians.

Many bloggers reacted to a statement by Greek Foreign Minister that even mentioning the existence of Macedonian language and ethnicity is “not helpful” to solving the name issue, perceiving it as continuation of the policy of ethnocide. Zharko Trajanovski, referred to the related U.S. Dept. of State Briefing, extracting the most interesting parts (MKD).

In the same vein, dozens of bloggers promoted the video of the song “Postojam” (”I Exist”), by embedding it in their own posts and even reposting copies of it on YouTube. The video features scenes from documentary films about the ethnic cleansing of Macedonians during the Greek Civil War of 1946-49, accompanied with humanistic lyrics: “I exist… All is forgiven: even your wish for me to be no more.”

The author of the blog Agness wrote (MKD):

Since its official release, the video of the single “Postojam” by the pop rock singer Miyatta received wide media coverage and it is a topic of discussion among the Macedonian population all around the world. Interest for the English translation of the lyrics and releasing it abroad has also been shown. Regardless of the context, the video has become something worth a comment. Those who were familiar with that part of Macedonia's history congratulated Miyatta for delivering this audio-visual expression. Those who see such pictures for the first time, think that it is too painful to be true. Some believe that this is just an attempt at attention-seeking. All kinds of positive and negative comments are yet to be heard. I am happy that the number of people who were indifferent towards “Postojam” is rather small.

Images of sorrow and exile on the one hand, and images of unity and pride on the other make for a rather authentic representation of Macedonia.

The past is not to be revived, but to be outgrown.
Let us outgrow it, but first,
Let us know it!
Macedonia exists.

In the other direction, the blog Drugarche posted translations of articles from the Greek press, including cartoons [MKD]. A number of bloggers also praised the interview of the Macedonian director Milcho Manchevski [GRE], given to the Greek newspaper Eleftherotypia, and posted links to its English translations. Some offered more historical information from ancient books [MKD] and Western newspaper archives [MKD], as well as about the possible origins of the Greek flag.

But, most importantly, blogs have proved to be the primary vehicle for distributing information on grassroots peace-building. The news about the upcoming visit of about 50 Greek peace activists to Skopje scheduled for May 17, 2008, appeared [MKD] on the influential Vuna blog first:

This is not an attempt to stoke fires of the Macedonian nationalist sentiments. This is not a call to stone embassies, supermarkets or whatever.

On the contrary, this is a call to participate in an event intended as opposition to all the madness. Greek citizens are first and foremost human beings, and most of them have nothing to do with their retrograde and fascizoid state policy, nor with the hordes of morons who harass people on the highways. At the same time, not all Macedonian citizens are hotheads who “hate every Greek thing” and can't wait to throw stones on the Liaison office.


Peace, love, empathy!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Macedonia: Sakura - Cherry Blossom Celebration in Skopje

by Filip Stojanovski for Global Voices Online (May 6, 2008)

Even though very few ethnic Japanese live in the Republic of Macedonia, many locals took part in the second annual celebration of Sakura - the festival of cherry blossoms in Macedonia's capital, Skopje. Organizers of the festivals included martial arts dojos and some prominent bloggers who recently started a collaborative blog, Japan@mk [MKD], and initiated spreading the word through the Macedonian blogosphere.

The festival took place on April 12, on a street lined with Japanese cherry trees in full bloom, next to Skopje's main square. The program consisted of martial arts demonstrations, reciting of haiku in Macedonian language, accompanied by music played on Japanese flute, making of origami, writing the names of participants in Japanese calligraphy, and tasting healthy products made of Japanese fungi.

Thanks to the social networking within the community, dozens of bloggers used the event to socialize, including several who came from other cities. Some of them, like Bi, Volan, Strumjan, and neW1, posted extensive photo-galleries afterwards, while others wrote posts with most favorable impressions. Nadezna and HibernusCorvus, posted their reasons why they didn't attend.

Sakura in Skopje
Members of Samurai Dojo in action. Photo by Volan.

Bi, one of the organizers and an Iaidō practitioner, wrote [MKD] about her insider experience:

The origami were quite successful, and were done in three booths… [for samurai hats, cranes, and cats]. The kids were very happy, and many of them took their samurai hats to Nahomi [Japanese lady who did calligraphy] to write their names in Japanese.

Nahomi got genuine Macedonian experience because the audience did not allow her to catch her breath. They crowded around her, handing papers under her nose to write their names in Japanese, without any order. They even overturned her ink. She was confused because the people could not form a line, but accepted all requests with grace and impeccable manners…

The haiku turned out great, and the three guests read poetry by classic Japanese masters and by Macedonian poets. Some in the audience turned a deaf ear on this, and complained of boredom… Other audience members provided an unpleasant experience of rude curiosity, by grabbing and even drawing the swords and the bokken from the participants' hands…

I hope next year we'll have an even more interesting and more beautiful program, with more elements, and the city will help with more than just providing space, and the consulate will provide more than just moral support. We had great time anyway, even when the uncultured mishaps mentioned above are taken into account :)


Macedonia: Bloggers Discuss NATO Summit and Greece

Last week, the Macedonian blogosphere buzzed about Greece's obstruction of Macedonia's NATO entry. This post presents a set of typical initial reactions to this news.

Filip Petrovski described (MKD) the atmosphere in Macedonia several days before the NATO Summit:

The tension in the air is incredible. The upcoming NATO Summit in Bucharest created a heavy atmosphere of expectation in the region. It is absolutely impossible to predict what will happen there. Expecting closure is already unavoidable part of our lives, of all everyday discussions… I recently observed two friends who had different opinions about Macedonia's stance on the latest proposal by the mediator Nimetz. I've known these two persons for a while, and I have never seen them being nervous, aggressive or intolerant of each other on political or historical issues. But this time it wasn't so. One of them simply got up and left in the middle of the discussion.

On the night of April 2, upon learning that Greece would stop NATO from reaching a consensus on invitation of new members, dozens of Macedonian bloggers reacted with angry posts.

Some placed pictures of the current Macedonian flag on their sites, while others chose to display (MKD) Macedonia's 1992-1995 flag, which carried the Vergina Sun symbol and is no longer in use due to Greek objections. Many, including Toast Government (MKD), expressed an opinion that the goal of Greece is to completely negate the Macedonian identity and eradicate the nation. Along with congratulations to Croatia and Albania (MKD), the countries that succeeded in receiving NATO invitations, some bloggers recommended (MKD) that Macedonians unite in the time of a calamity and offered ideas (MKD) to the Macedonian government on how to act in the future.

The next day, there seemed to be more optimism in bloggers' responses; some included video clips with Macedonian music in their posts. One blogger wrote (MKD) that this was not the “end of the world”:

Since morning, people around me seem possessed by some kind of madness or hysteria. They come and go out of my office, and I hear wailing, sighs, conversations about NATO, […] VETO […] …

I see higher spirits on the blogs, but they seem to slide into it, too. Oh, what shall we do, too bad for our youth, loads of such stuff… Hey, people! You were not this scared when the war started in 2001! Come on, let's all cry out to heaven and wait for the judgment day. As far as I can see, the Sun rose up again, my house is still in the same place, and the work I have to do is still waiting for me!!!

Zoriv commented (MKD) ironically on the Greek attempts to monopolize the world's historical heritage, saying that the true heir of Alexander the Great would not show fear that “his country could be invaded by a nation which is five times smaller.”

Anti and Bi (MKD), bloggers who have been promoting principled pacifism for years and advocated Macedonia's non-involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, reiterated their stance against participation in military alliances.

Kalina reacted (MKD) to the new breed of skepticism towards NATO and EU integration, pointing out that after the failure at the NATO Summit, some inconsistent analysts, who have never before questioned this long-term strategic objective of the country, started talking that maybe Macedonia should give up trying to gain membership in these international institutions.

Human rights experts Mirjana Najcevska and Zharko Trajanoski (MKD), held the government accountable for failing to fulfill its obligation to provide NATO membership for Macedonia. The latter warned that the huge obstructive force of Greece could not be the sole excuse for all Macedonian failures.

Bazhdardzhijata criticized (MKD) the Macedonian journalists who protested by leaving the press conference of Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs in Bucharest:

I still can't get over the prideful stupidity of these journalists. Instead of staying at the event and bombarding with revealing questions, which would have caught the Greek fascist policies with their pants down, they decided to leave. And the way they left! They did not make any noise, they just turned their backs on them. After such a departure, I am sure Dora [Bakoyannis] sincerely and silently thanked them.

In the following days, some Macedonian bloggers realized how important it was to communicate about these issue with the world and started publishing more English-language posts.

VBB used historical examples to emphasize that Greek arguments were unsustainable:

There's an island called Ireland. Because of historical reasons similar to those described above, that geographical region became divided between the Republic of Ireland (an independent state like the Republic of Macedonia) and Northern Ireland, a constituent unit of another country- the United Kingdom (similar case as the Greek province of Macedonia). The British crown has imposed harsh measures on its Irish possesions, that also included colonising loyalist elements from Great Britain. Basically its the same story as with Greece. However, the difference is that, today the UK does not demand from the Republic of Ireland to change its constitutional name.

Taking into account the role that politics plays in Macedonia's daily life, it is quite possible that NATO integration will remain one of the hottest political subjects for Macedonian bloggers in the near future.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Greece, Macedonia, name issue

Macedonian perception of the name dispute can be described using the following fable. The Greek excuses for inciting the name issue sound childish, irrational and irrelevant precisely for the reason they are. Macedonia has never attempted to monopolize the word Macedonia, nor prevent anyone else, including Greece, from using elements of the world heritage left by the ancients. On to the fable...

Æsop. (Sixth century B.C.) Fables.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

The Wolf and the Lamb

ONCE upon a time a Wolf was lapping at a spring on a hillside when, looking up, what should he see but a Lamb just beginning to drink a little lower down. “There’s my supper,” thought he, “if only I can find some excuse to seize it.” Then he called out to the Lamb, “How dare you muddle the water from which I am drinking?”
“Nay, master, nay,” said Lambikin; “if the water be muddy up there, I cannot be the cause of it, for it runs down from you to me.”
“Well, then,” said the Wolf, “why did you call me bad names this time last year?”
“That cannot be,” said the Lamb; “I am only six months old.”
“I don’t care,” snarled the Wolf; “if it was not you it was your father;” and with that he rushed upon the poor little Lamb and—
ate her all up. But before she died she gasped out—

Friday, March 21, 2008

Creative Commons: 11 Shakespeare e-books in Macedonian Published

Creative Commons Content Portal for Macedonia published Macedonian translations of eleven Shakespeare plays as downloadable e-books, made available by the renowned storyteller and translator Dragi Mihajlovski.

The e-books have been published in weekly batches of two to three PDF-files between the 8th of February and the 20th of March 20, 2008. The following plays have been published under the Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Macedonia license:

The portal is managed by Metamorphosis Foundation, and it continues to provide space for e-publishing of works by contemporary Macedonian authors, as well as possibility for all who use the Creative Commons licenses elsewhere on the internet to add links to their content published elsewhere on the internet.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Macedonia's Animal Kingdom

The resting jaguar. Click on the image to enlarge

Visit the Skopje Zoo. Help feeding the needy animals by paying the 50 denars ticket.

By Filip Stojanovski

Skopje (28.09.2002) � Even though it manages to survive in dire times, Skopje Zoo needs help. The management obviously tried to use the meager resources to reconstruct the infrastructure and even add new content. There are obvious signs of recent rebuilding of the walls, the place is kept clean, and there's a special place for kids to play on their own.

Of course, you might object to the whole concept of the Zoo: purchasing animals in order to put them in cages, ruining their lives and their population in the wild, so humans can take a look at them up close. I, for one, would not perpetrate such a thing. But, this is not an ideal world. We better make the best of what is, because things sure don't feel like moving into the direction of what should be. So, a walk through the Zoo can provide you with a lot of benefits, both educational and social.

First and foremost, you would be able to help the animals much more than if you ignore the problem. Paying the ticket helps the food fund, obviously. Just like in the elections, high turn-out declines the possibility of abuse. There are visitors who, alongside taking a throng of their kids to the Zoo, find sadistic pleasure in abusing the animals, especially the hippo or the monkeys, throwing (hard) objects at them and making a nuisance of themselves. Such persons think they are funny � and their children follow their example. I bet they'll think twice before they do such things again, if there are other visitors around to reprimand them about their improper behavior.

You can also find nice ways to communicate with the animals. This provides for a spark of the great feeling of oneness with nature, something of which many city-dwellers have forgotten. The effect is hundred-fold if you are a child. We can all benefit from the notion that we are not alone in this world.

The jaguar cub
Some visitors buy smoki snacks at the gate and feed the non-carnivores. This practice seems to be tolerated by the staff, which comprises of but a few persons, who are too busy taking care of the facilities anyway. There are several species of deer, horses (ponies, and "normals"), goats, and birds�ducks, swans, and geese--which all seem quite tame and act friendly.

The jaguar cub (born this winter), like any baby, is always happy to play and likes the visitors' attention. He is yet to become like the other cats, which have "got used" to being crammed in the cages the size of a large room, instead of roaming through tens of kilometers of territory, a normal habitat for the lions, jaguars, or leopards. They seem numbed, lying all day, breaking the habit only to pace nervously from time to time in great speed in front of the iron bars.

One of the jaguars. It's funny that no prominent paramilitary organization has taken the name of this great cat species. They are the most numerous great cats in captivity in Macedonia

There's plenty of more to discover in the Zoo. Some cages are eerily empty, but there are still families of camels, peacocks, chicken, vultures, pigs, llamas, alpacas, and African and Tibetan cattle, some of them with offspring. The Zoo also houses the Museum of Natural History (closed after 4 pm), where you can see fossils, mammoth tusks, sculls and bones of prehistoric animals, and dioramas of our contemporaries, insects (colorful butterfly collection), and fishes.

Be there. It's cool to be kind to animals... and other people.

The black panther.

The jaguar cub:

The baby jaguar among the smoki snacks thrown by the well-wishing visitors.

[This article was first published on now-defunct Reality Macedonia news and opinions website on September 28, 2002.]