Holiday weekend.

Small birds are tumbling out of the air to land in the dust that the construction workers left behind. Taking turns, they hop into a depression left by a truck's wheel and flap their little wings, covering their bodies with fine gray dust. The church nearby starts it call to the faithful, six different bell tones ringing chaotically at a quarter to the hour. There are new flags on every building. I only noticed them early on the morning after Liberation Day, as I was walking home listening to the sparrows start singing for the second time this week. They will catch the wind until Thursday and then will be packed carefully away until June.


Hey all.

As of Friday, we are on holiday until May 6th - the Slovenian spring break. We have a few trips planned, and some cultural events to attend, so stay tuned.

Our trip to Piran!

Yesterday we met our friend and drove down to the coast to visit Piran. The highways in Slovenia are relatively new so our trip was about an hour, but our progress was slightly delayed when traffic was halted to accommodate an entourage for a Greek politician.
Piran is small, but beautiful. Having lived on an island for about a decade, then living on the coast for another nine years, I've become attached to the ocean. I always recall the rolling waves shimmering in the sunlight and hearing them gently lap against the shore whenever I get pangs of homesickness. I miss the Pacific.
We climbed the town wall, built in the fifteenth century, and roamed around the Cathedral of Saint George. We had lunch by the water (I had a mozzarella and tomato starter followed by mushroom pasta, chased with a half-liter of beer) then relaxed on a rocky beach. When I removed my shoes and walked into the salty Adriatic Sea, my homesick feelings ebbed away. I can still taste the saltwater.
Another friend joined us for coffee, and afterwards we strolled along the shore walk, chatting about politics and media and jobs. Since I love ice cream, we stopped for a massive sundae and watched the sunset. We drove home for a few beers and a lesson in Yugoslavian history, plus a few heated rounds of Name the Capital . . . which is a sure sign you've had a few drinks.
I stumbled into bed early in the morning - an excellent day, overall.

On a side note, did you know that some high school and university graduates meet at the end of the school year for seven to ten days, usually in a foreign country like Italy or Greece, and have a celebratory binge marathon? These are not isolated parties: they are practiced all over, highly organized and teachers participate. If only my high school was that interesting! So, a question to our Slovenian readers: did you have a similar experience when you graduated from high school or university?

I totally lost at Name the Capital, by the way. My geography sucks.



A colleague from back home keeps sending me forwarded emails. Today it's a chain letter about how the UK is no longer teaching about the Holocaust in schools in order to not offend Muslims (unsurprisingly, this chain mail isn't truthful). As a sociologist, I find urban legends and chain mail fascinating. As an inbox recipient, I feel somewhat more conflicted. Do I chalk it up to 'life on the internets', or do I mention to my lovely colleague that this is, in fact, hysterical nonsense based on bad journalism being used to fuel anti-Muslim sentiment in the UK and abroad? We don't know each other that well, and it feels awkward.
Tomorrow is the first day of the national holidays, so I thought I'd start the weekend by looking back towards last Saturday. I'm thinking this weekend will be much less novel...

It's not often you find yourself packed into a small bar with two national hockey teams.

But a loud, cramped pub full of celebrating men is not where the evening starts. We walk from Vič to Hala tivoli, the stadium in the park. There is a big screen set up to watch the final match between Slovenia and Lithuania, and we want to catch some of the game. The evening is mild and Prešernova cesta smells of lilac blossoms. Jay has a beer and I've got a bottle of sweet white wine, but we're trying not to take too long in getting there, since M. will be waiting for us and the game is due to end any moment. As we get closer to the park, we start seeing police vans parked everywhere. The ones here are blue and have wire mesh on the windows. Feeling unsure of the open alcohol rules, we revert to our Canadian tradition of concealing our bottles in our pockets. Of course, it is legal to drink on the street but we still expect a "hey, you!" to ring out. Habit dies hard. Jay sees two huge equine figures looming in the shadows. Armored police on horseback ride silently through the dark. Now we can hear the sound of cheering. Did Slovenia just score? The national anthem, Zdravljica by poet Prešeren, starts playing. It looks like we won't catch the moment of Slovenia's victory after all.

We somehow find M. in the dark and hang around in Tivoli, drinking wine, discussing the police on horseback and talking about going back to Canada. None of us is excited by the prospect (Slovenian readers: stop rolling your eyes!). M. and I sweet-talk security into letting us use the WC past the gate of the outdoor rink, but Jay gets patted down when he tries to do the same. "What is this in your pocket, sir?" the security guard asks, pulling a small pink container out of Jay's pocket. "Oh, lipstick," the guard grunts with a weird look on his face. On the bench nearby, M. and I howl with laughter. Jay goodhumouredly grouses about having to hold my makeup in his pocket.

I. finishes up her press duties and joins us for the walk to the bar. We get to the Cutty Sark, but find, as previously rumoured, that it is closed for a private party. Strictly reserved. As in, if you are not on a national hockey team or an official groupie thereof, you are not getting in. We have a card up our sleeve though, and are ushered in a side door (thanks! :). We are early, the teams haven't arrived, so we snag a table in the corner and order round one, of many. Drinks keep arriving, but no money is exchanging hands. Soon we will learn that we are drinking on the tab of the winning team. The night just keeps getting better.

A bunch of hockey players come in. You can tell by the muscles straining their tight t-shirts, and some of them have the requisite slashed faces, broken noses and mullets of professional players. There are no girls with them, so this clearly isn't the Slovenian team. We get offered cigarettes and one guy takes it upon himself to impress with some classic dance moves in front of our table. Think "white tornado" add pale blue belted denims, a tucked in shirt and some loafers, and you're starting to get an idea. This is the Hungarian national team. They are nice guys, but a bit on the quiet side. They know that this isn't really their night, but they're making the best of it.

In walk a crowd of tall, good-looking lads in suits and medallions. A cloud of girls dressed to the nines follows in the team's wake. This is the Slovenian team, newly admitted to the A levels. They will be playing in the same grouping as Canada. We are told that Canada is destined to lose. We may not be hockey patriots, but we still smile at the thought.

We start drinking vodka redbulls. The next hours will see dancing to Croatian pop hits Bosnian rock (thanks Pengovsky), a couple rounds of "We are the champions!" and bitchy looks shot our way by the puckbunnies.

This is my first exposure to puckbunnies, and I have never in my life seen such committed pursuit of men. In clubs, it's usually the other way round. In the women's washroom, the competition is at its fiercest. Women throw each other murderous looks, evaluating their opponents. There is no sense of solidarity, no laughing about the guys on the dancefloor, no smiles even. Even in this backstage area, where women are assembling the props and readying themselves for their performance, there is no moment where they drop their guard. Later on, some of these girls will be sitting at tables, staring bitterly into their drinks. They won't have been picked by members of the team. They will be talking to the mascot, evaluating whether he qualifies as a team member or whether they should just cut their losses and go home. The glamazon facade will droop and they will look human again.

The bar will empty out, the lights will come on and we will down our last round and make our way home. Jay and I will get off the first bus of the morning to find a terrible accident on the corner of our street. Cops will be directing traffic through the scene and we will hop over the patches of glittering glass and twisted metal, unsure of how to negotiate our way past the wreck. The caffeine of four redbulls will keep my blood fizzing long past dawn, and I will sit on the balcony, listening as my neighbourhood wakes up and the street sweepers make their way slowly down Tržaška.


Ljubljana: bridging security culture with urban culture and figuring it out.

I'm filled with coffee and ideas. I have to read Wallerstein (and I will) but I got's to do some writing. Being excited and jittery is a natural state for me.

In Vancouver, we have surveillance cameras in the city center. London is saturated with them. In my classrooms here in Ljubljana, cameras are installed on the walls, pointing towards the front of the class.

I was thinking: are there cameras in the city as well? Yes, there are. I'm still looking for websites that feature Ljubljana and security culture. Anyone want to throw me a link? Here's what I have so far:

iSee: A web application from the Institute for Applied Autonomy that tracks camera locations and plots routes so you can avoid unwanted surveillance. Ljubljana apparently has a map. Anyone know where I can find it?

A little piece on art and surveillance from We Make Money Not Art, one of my favourite sites.

Apparently, there have been a couple of projects in Ljubljana based on surveillance and security culture, one in 2003 (scroll down to IAA's workshop that mapped the cameras in Ljubljana) and one in 2006 (courtesy of Kiperpipa), so there is some dialogue on the topic.

Have you all heard about Track-the-Trackers? It's this great project that gives gear to participants to map out surveillance cameras and upload their coordinates to a server. Brilliant.

Sorry, this is just preliminary research on this topic. I thought this post would have more meat on it! Y'all can post thoughts, insights, complaints and critiques as I sort through websites and essays.

New copyright law in Europe?

Although I'm not a European I've met my fair share of them, and some them work in media and academics, so listen up! Today I read about IPRED2, a copyright law that will outright criminalize all supposed copyright infringement.

I'm of two minds on copyright. On one hand, as someone who occasionally publishes, having laws to protect my work from being stolen or plagiarized is good. If I wrote it, then I want credit for it. On the other hand, copyright abuses both the consumer and the producer by erecting barriers that limit the free exchange of ideas, while at the same time allowing corporations to maximize profit by regulating distribution.

Cory Doctorow
, a Canadian author, has been active in the copyfight movement for some time. Recently he did a talk in Vancouver on the issues and you can listen to the podcast here.

What kind impact would this have on the European community? Is "piracy" such a large topic in Slovenia? For those of you who write or make music, how does this effect your work?


Lazy Sunday.

Yesterday I bought a new pair of shorts. They are long and dark green and comfortable.

We met up with some friends last night and drank with the national hockey team. Don't ask, it's a long-ish story. I was fall-down drunk and said silly things, yes. To those who got us there, you're the best. You know who you are.

I woke up late today. I made a huge pot of couscous, tomatoes, scallions, fried tofu and onion and some olive oil and ate on our balconey, which now has a table and two chairs courtesy of our lovely landlords.

I love eating on our balconey.

Later Lisa and I walked around Rožna Dolina and soaked up the sun. It was perfect. Apple blossoms and lilac perfumed the air. A gentle breeze kept us cool. We strolled under the elm trees in the park and ended up downtown and had coffee, then a massive waffle cone.

This week we have plans. More later, okay?

I'm home now, obviously. Tonight I'm taking it easy, listening to hip-hop via iTunes radio and eating and drinking water.

Good night, internet friends.


We exist. Maybe.

I don't want to bring the eye of officialdom down here by including Google-able words or jinx anything by counting chickens before they hatch, but I just got word that certain documents have been issued finally. If you've spoken to me at any point since I've been here, you probably know the situation. Of course, nobody officially knows where these magical documents actually are (am I surprised? No.) or when we can get them, but finally we have confirmation that we exist. Yes!

Edited to add: The reason the documents are missing? New computer system. Nobody knows where in the world the documents have been sent, and no one can find this information out. Furthermore, nobody cares! *insert head banging wall*


Earth shaking.

As in, the earth on which my house is built is literally shaking like crazy. The whiskey and wine bottles are rattling in the kitchen, the floor is trembling and my glass of water is making a visual reference to Jurassic Park. It's about on par with the two earthquakes I've experienced in my life. Enough motion to make one feel ill at ease, but not so much that one has to invest in a new set of dishes or break out the survival kit.

It's construction time on our block and half of the city's workers have taken over the streetscape. They are now working directly below me, cutting cement, digging up the road, putting down pipes, yelling and having raucous smoke breaks on the front step. As long as they don't break the balcony off the face of the house, I'll be happy. It's actually a bit of a tight squeeze for the earth mover to pass under it, so I'm just going to trust that our friendly work crew in neon orange vests is keeping an eye on the matter.

I'm also not complaining, mind. How could I when all this is within a fifteen minute radius of my (trembling) house?


Straighten up and fly right.

And don't mess with Slovenian blog peeps. Interesting, someone from the company seems to have commented here, but not here, which I think would be where it really counts, no?

Edited to add: The comment's up now. Hopefully this will be resolved properly and quickly.


Horrible news from the US: School shootings claim 33 lives.

I just heard: at least 33 people are dead after a shooter attacked students at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg. CBC and the BBC have good coverage at the moment.

I won't pounce on this with theory, but I will say the American media will be all over this event for a very long time. Both the conservative and liberal factions will duke it out in the public sphere once again, over everything from violent media to gun control to public safety.

And, although we're living in Europe, we were born and raised neighbouring the US (Lisa: We're not immune from this sort of thing, either). Our condolences go out to the victims and their families.

Take care.

The dangerous task of being on the "wrong side" in Serbia.

I didn't hear anything about this in the international media, but apparently another journalist has been the victim of an attempted assassination in Belgrade. Jasmina Tešanović has a piece up on it here. Tešanović was one of the people I interviewed when I was in Serbia. We talked about the violence she and her friends have faced for the "crime" of being anti-war activists and journalists. Some of her stories were truly hair-raising, and yet she keeps on with her work: reporting on the Scorpions trial, writing about war crimes, protesting with Žene u črnom (Women in Black). I honestly don't know where that type of courage comes from.

Hey . . .

Anybody know a decent place to get a haircut in Ljubljana?


Just a little something something.

Next week is going to be a busy one, and if my plans come to fruition I will complete all my school obligations in one fell swoop. Do you hearing that swooping sound? That's the sound of victory.

I have to make two presentations. One for my Sociology of Everyday Life class entitled Managing the Secret: The Role of HIV / AIDS in Everyday Social Interaction (I have to present it to a first-year class), and I have to present my paper for Theory of Ideology on the politics of interpretation. I have to write on feature article on Rog for my journalism class, and perhaps present an article from Harper's if I ask nicely enough. I think I'm supposed to do it the following week, but it would be lovely if I can present next week instead.

Tonight we are meeting some friends to watch a Canadian comedy show(!) then head out to the Sark and perhaps . . . Metelkova? Who knows.

Anything new with you?


Jay's Belgrade report.

While Lisa was conducting interviews during our Belgrade trip, I took the liberty to explore the city on my own. I visited the Ethnographic Museum, because that's how I roll, then just wandered around and people-watched. To be honest, four days isn't really enough time to write a decent summary of city, but I can jot down my first impressions:

Busy city: pedestrians and cars and stray cats moving and pushing and talking at all hours. Large Roma population. People were genuinely friendly and helpful. Huge outdoor market, a labyrinth of stalls with even elderly women selling vegetables from their gardens near the entrance or between "official" stalls, and one guy selling what appeared to be passports. Cars everywhere. Garbage burning in dumpsters on the sidewalk. Gorgeous parks. Pancakes filled with Snickers, Nutella and vanilla pudding. Cheap beer. Excellent coffee. The best burik. Women in slim designer jeans. Tito's grave: practically a solarium; a think white marble tomb in a glass house, surrounded by lush plants, built in a park decorated with statues of him. Hills. Police in combat boots. Football. Amazing bakeries. Cigarettes with warning labels in Cyrillic. Tesla exhibit. A pedestrian walkway free of cars, hosting hundreds if not thousands of people. Watching 300 at the theatre. Meeting a Texan. Petting a stray cat for ten minutes and she totally loved the attention.

Some photos. Enjoy.

School report.

This kind of compliments Lisa's recent post since we're in the same journalism class. I also got my first assignment back, and I was not entirely happy with my piece so far. I could write better, but I didn't. Don't get me wrong, the prof thought it was good and really liked some sections, but I didn't get the exuberant response I'm accustomed to when I get back work from profs. Oh, well. Although Lisa really deserves the credit here - her piece was topical, well-written and courageous.

However, I did get my props later in the day. In my Sociology of Sexuality class, we write short essays in every class, based on the readings and class discussion. Usually our prof (a sociologist who specializes in human sexuality, and is incredibly intelligent and personable - he's one of the few quantitative researchers I've met) assigns us the topic, but today our topic was freestyle - anything we wanted. We had half an hour. I furiously scribbled down my thoughts for half an hour and wrote a piece called Symbolic Interactionism and the Male Erection. You can imagine my hesitation when he asked me to present my paper to the rest of class. I took a deep breath and talked for ten minutes. He listened to me, then pondered for a second, then told me my topic was very good and considered it thesis-worthy. I was pleased.

Although I find classes in Slovenia more relaxed than the ones back in Canada, the object in the university here is not to rely on the prof. The classes are run like graduate seminars, where students discuss, read and write at a much more intensive level. Also, grad school is a time for academic exploration, where you can dive into the literature without a net, so to speak. I found myself doing that a lot here - going to the library, reading articles online, and bridging different theorists together in my papers. Yeah, there are lectures, but students are encouraged more to synthesize their knowledge. Is this the result of the Barcelona system?

Anyway, back to work.

No computers were harmed in the making of this post.

Actually, things are progressing quite nicely. Research projects are well in hand and freelance queries are shaping up. I got my portrait assignment back today and the feedback was good. The prof gave each member of the class some comments as she was handing back our projects and said to me "well done. You're a journalist already, right?" which was quite flattering, since I don't actually have any formal training (self-taught only). Some of my paragraphs were a bit off in terms of rhythm, but on the whole I'm pleased with the first draft. I'm excited to work on the feature story (about a strike in Novi Sad, Serbia) for next week.

It's another beautiful warm day but I need to hunker down in the flat for one more afternoon to get my football hooliganism essay under control. It's due at 8:30 tomorrow morning, so I need to get back down to it.


Time vortex

The internet is the best and worst thing ever. You can judge the proximity of a looming deadline I have by the stupid amount of time I've been spending online, reading and commenting on blogs. I've also decided to just go ahead and put the nail in the coffin of my productivity and signed up for Facebook. God.


Squatting in Ljubljana.

Right now, I'm eating my hangover breakfast, an arrangement of food that I came up with since I've been in Slovenia: scrambled eggs with lots of Tabasco sauce, sauerkraut, bread and coffee, Turkish style. It works, trust me.

Last night we met up with friends for drinks at the Cutty Sark, where Pengovsky plays an amazing set as house DJ. At one point, some lads from a English rugby team were stripping and dancing on the bar. I have one word for that scene: joj.

Later, we made our way to Metelkova. I've been meaning to check it out, but I never gave myself a chance to do so. Originally built as barracks for the Austro-Hungary army one hundred years ago, a group of activists, students and artists squatted out the space and transformed it into housing, bars and an event centre in the 90's. Nowadays, according to some sources, no one lives there, but the bars are still standing and music and art shows are regular occurrences. Broken Pencil has a decent article on Metelkova here.

Although last night was relatively quiet (which is rare) there was a little action. We entered one of the clubs and were greeted by pounding, and quite frankly excellent house music. People were dancing, hanging out (one guy was actually snoozing and no one seemed to care) and generally having a good time. The space was surprisingly huge - from the outside I expected a room no larger than our flat.

At Cutty Sark my half-liters of beer were costing me €2.30; at Metelkova my beer was €1.80. Don't get me wrong, Cutty Sark is a great watering hole: very lively and friendly and I strongly recommend going there on a Saturday night, but for me Metelkova reminded me of the spaces we had in Vancouver that represented the D.I.Y. ethic I love. I was a little homesick after we left.

In Vancouver, and in the rest of Canada, spaces like that are becoming a rare sight. However, I've been told that Metelkova is an institution now, a party place for youth. Whether this is "bad" or "good" I'll leave to you to decide, but this is not the only squatted space in the city. In my literary journalism class I'll be writing about Tovarna Rog, factories that were converted into an art and social space. Tension has developed between the city and Rog, and I'll try to keep on eye on future developments. Some images of the gates of Rog:


Rojstni dan imam danes!

I may be wrong with my sentence structure there, but I think the Slovene is understandable anyways: today is my birthday! It's been pretty low key, since last night was a big international student party and we were out until 3:30 or so and then up again for our 8:30 AM Theory of Ideology seminar.

So far I've had happy birthday sung to me in four languages: Gaelic (courtesy of a nice lad from Belfast), Slovenian, French and English. In Wednesday's afternoon language class we covered date and time, so I was able to say "rojstni dan imam jutri" when we were going around the room practising saying the date of our birthday. The teacher laughed and sang me "vse najboljše".

Jay took the idea of celebration and internationalism to heart and drank shots of tequila, and then made about 20 new friends from all over Europe. Bets were placed with the Dutch, dance contests threatened with the Portuguese and the ins and outs of scifi / fantasy publishing discussed with the Irish. We are also responsible for introducing our friend Jan to the glory that is post-drinking burek at 3:00 AM. How can one not be aware of this important foodstuff? The mind boggles.

Today was easy-going: class, falafel at Bavarski dvor, napping and then Zvezda for cake and bela kava. Why did no one alert me to the existence of Sachertorte? I've spent 28 years in shameful ignorance. I was going to order something else, but the waiter wouldn't let me because he thought my chosen cake didn't look good enough, so he recommended this confection of chocolate cake with apricot jam and dark chocolate icing. I am now in fear for my health and my wallet.


Sarkozy sucks.

The Sociology of Everyday Life exam is over and done with, and our profile assignments are well in hand. I'm hoping to put up some visuals and reports from our trip to Serbia tomorrow.

In the meantime, I'd like to give a shout out to the parents of École Rampal who blockaded a police car to try and prevent the detention of a Chinese man who had been grabbed by the cops for not having his papers on him. Yelling "lachez-le" (let him go), they surrounded the car and demanded his release. These are the parents of preschoolers in Belleville, Paris. They were threatened with police dogs and dispersed with tear gas, and the principal of the school was held for seven hours of questionning for having allegedly called a cop a connard. Some video (French only, sorry).

Upcoming posts, coming to a computer near you.

There will be a brief delay in service, since I have to finish a piece for my literary journalism class. However, I will soon be posting about our weekend in Belgrade, a primer on Slovenian beer and going to the movies, Europe-style.

See you when I see you.