How Chivalry Could Heal American Misogyny

I just found on my Facebook wall a post titled „5 Reasons Why Women Should Celebrate the Death of Chivalry.“ It made me jump to the ceiling. Since Woody Allen scandal came up again few weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about women in the United States a lot. Actually, I’ve been thinking about women in United States a lot since I moved here three years ago. Before I moved here, I lived in Croatia and Austria. And I just can’t stop being shocked about how much, and how deeply women are hated in this country. Something went terribly wrong here and somewhere along the path to equality, and instead of partners, American men and women became competitors, even opponents.

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Yes, you can! Part II

As ridiculous as it may sound, I wish that US voters behaved like nothing has changed. I wish they had the same enthusiasm they had in 2008. Because they still urgently need change, they still urgently need Obama. And this does not mean that Obama hasn’t done his job. In contrary, Obama has done a great job. He proved that he deserves to be elected again. Yes, people are disappointed. People are always disappointed. People were disappointed after every revolution, every election, every change. Every war. (Believe me, I grew up in a country of revolutions, wars, and major political and social changes. Change takes time. And people are always disappointed.) People don’t really know what they want. People want miracles. Miracles do not exist. Not in the world we've built for ourselves.

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Sandy, the real witch & Goldman Sachs, the real God

I am happy that all of my friends in NYC are well. I hope the city - and here I mean its people - will show its amazing stamina once again and get back to its feet very soon. And here the most amazing picture. While whole downtown is in darkness, and many hospitals had to be evacuated, Goldman Sachs is glowing in its full glory. Yes, we know who has the power....


Occupy Wall Street

Yes, I've been there. I had to. I am for change. I wrote about things Occupy people are fighting against (and for) in my essay about the financial crisis back in 2008 (see my "Ana Almighty"  article in The Vienna Review, December 2008). I wrote about it in my second book "Knockout" - let's hope it will come out soon.

I was excited to witness Occupy Wall Street. But it made me sad.

First, the whole neighborhood is under a blockade and there are more policemen and securities than traders. Walking through Wall Street felt like walking through Zagreb during the war - especially during an air raid. That was last year, before Occupy. It is even worse now. How fair and innocent can the financial sector be if it needs an army of policemen to protect it?

Second, Occupy Wall Street is actually Occupy Zuccotti Park - the protesters are squashed together in a tiny park away from the Wall Street and surrounded by Mc Donald's and Burger King and a million of police cars. There are more police cars then protesters. It looked like they were put there, where they don't disturb, and left until they lose the drive and just leave. And this is what will happen. It reminded me of Uni Brennt, the protest that started at the University of Vienna in 2009 and spread through Europe. Universities were occupied for months. There were workshops, work groups; famous intellectuals talked and supported, media covered. Students were left to protest until they lost the drive. Nothing has changed.

Don't ask me how to make a change. I don't know. Maybe we should all just quit our jobs in the same time.

Unfortunately, the danger is that with every try like this, which ends up in just dying away, people lose hope. Hope in their power and hope in their ability to change things. When we lose hope, we can take a triple dose of anti depressants and turn into robots. And this is exactly what the system needs.

And last, yesterday I found a large article about the big Occupy protests in Okland on the home page of Austrian daily newspaper Der Standard. Then I looked into LA Times. NY Times. Huffington Post. No one covered them. For the US media - and thus US public - they have never happened.

Yes, I'm sad. Still, the fact that so many people recognize problems, have a critical mind, want to find solutions, are willing to protest and say NO MORE - that is hope.


Rossini, Beethoven, Haydn, Händl and the Flag

Last night, I was excited to hear my first concert at the Hollywood Bowl. This legendary venue was supposed to add to my experiences of Opera Garnier, The Met, La Scala and Wiener Staatsoper (Covent Garden, Fenice and San Carlo are on the list). Unfortunately, the excitement has turned into shock right after the artists appeared on the stage. They received the welcoming applause and then the audience got up as they started playing the anthem. People held their hands on their hearts and sang out loud. American flag, which was hanging just left of the stage was projected on two large screens on each side of the stage. But why?

We were about to hear works by Rossini (Italian), Beethoven (German), Haydn (Austrian) and Händl (German). Solists were Swiss, Venezuelan, and American (born to Korean parents). The conductor was British. The instruments must have been made in Europe (or am I so ignorant that I don’t know USA is producing concert-class violins and pianos?)

Having experienced a war based on national hatred, having learned (as we all have) about the horrors the world has so recently experienced because of nationalism (WW2), and being aware of two wars going on under the same flag, the experience made me very uncomfortable.

There is no space for nationalism in art. Art should bring peace and break all boundaries. And at its best, it really does – many of those musicians were educated in and have built their careers in many different countries on different continents. A Händel opera in its original form will be equally appreciated in France, Japan or Australia. Warhol’s works hang on walls all around the world.

And yes, we are used to anthems – before sports events. But this has its reasons – national teams often compete each other and have to give their best representing their country.

Art is together and not against each other.

A fact that should be highly respected and valued.

Only Bad Mood?

Norway: A right wing radical puts a bomb in the government building in Oslo and then goes to an island where he kills 77 teenagers in a summer camp organized by the social-democratic party. He wanted to warn the party, which he accused of letting too many Muslims into the country. Austria: A yearly youth study shows that more and more young people support FPÖ, the right-wing party. FPÖ directly appeals to (and then nourish) their fears. The study shows that Austrian youth is increasingly anxious. It also shows that those sympathizing FPÖ are much more scared (than those more left oriented) of the future: of inflation, terrorism and one day not receiving their pension.

USA: In current debt-ceiling debate, the Republicans are bringing the country - and the world economic system to the verge of a catastrophe. The only thing they want to achieve is – ultimate power. Even if the world crashes.

Brusselles: EU is facing a political disintegration and economic collapse. We’re facing a catastrophe, hand in hand with USA.

See any links? Well I do. For me, all of these are puzzle pieces of the same story. In September 2008, our western system known as democratic liberal capitalism proved to have failed. Under the strong lobby of those who hold the money, but not officially the power, we didn’t do what seemed impossible but was the only solution – erase and start from scratch. It wouldn’t have allowed rich to get richer, as they did since the crisis. Instead, we took the corpse, dabbed on it some make-up (couple of trillions of dollars worth of make-up) and pretended it’s going to be OK. Well, it’s not. The corpse has rottened and there’s nothing left but a huge mess and unpayable debt.

Of course people are scared. This could be the end of the world as we know it. The systems, the beliefs, the rules, the rulers, everything that should keep us in place and safe from chaos and suffering - it has all proved (continuously) to have failed. In our globalized world that means there’s nowhere to escape. We fail, you fail.

One more time, the only solution would be to start from scratch. But how do you start from scratch and change the whole paradigm? How do you explain to people who speed up when you signal you’d like to change a lane, just so that they don’t have to let you in front of them (even if it means endangering yours and their life) that the only way this poor planet and its billions of people can survive is if we LIVE solidarity, respect, altruism and modesty? There’s no space here for greed and power games.

Either we reach that or we’ll go through a catastrophe in the scale of WW III. Unfortunately, I’m afraid we’ll need to experience such a tragedy to (re-)learn real value. It’s human nature.

Yes, I’m in a bad mood today.

Who Killed Osama Bin Laden?

The killing of Osama Bin Laden is a huge news. For some, because he was the face of the worst terrorist actions in the history. (Which has officially lead to this big mess we’re in right now.) For others, he was the face of their fight for their holy cause. Millions are celebrating, many are mourning (millions?). But there is another person involved into this story, which I’ve been wondering about since I heard the news.

Who killed Osama Bin Laden? You will not find it mentioned in any media. There is a person somewhere out there who pulled the trigger and fired the bullet that killed Osama Bin Laden. One person. One human being. One soldier.

We watch all those movies with all those hero stories. Invented, created, constructed stories. The big celebration of the hero. How many times has Will Smith saved the world, shook president’s hand and was jubilated by the masses? All followed by that huge film music.

Somewhere out there, there is a guy who killed Osama Bin Laden. The poor man can’t even call home and say “Hi honey, guess what. I killed Osama today.” He will always stay just one of the hundreds of thousands US soldiers invading some countries somewhere out there in the Near East. No celebrity status. No grand music. Not even his closest will ever know what he’s done. What a job.

But hey, there’s already a movie planed about this. A new fictional hero being born. So we can enjoy all of this while eating popcorn. Will we then wonder who he is?

And maybe, HE will be sitting in the same cinema thinking “Fuck, Hollywood is crap!”

Walking in Hollywood

OK, so three weeks ago, I’ve officially moved to Los Angeles. It is not that I wanted to live in Los Angeles. Or work in movies. I fell in love. With a man who wants to live n Los Angeles. And works in movies. Life has its own plans. For a European, USA is…. let me be diplomatic here…. strange enough. But Los Angeles is like landing on a different planet. You are happy there (still) are traces of water and atmosphere so you won’t immediately die. But to survive here you might need other things. Among others: a job in the industry, at least one part of your body inserted with silicone or chemically treated, a pair of UGGs and (the quintessential): a car.

Speaking of which… Today, I felt especially courageous and rebellious (and hungry) and I dared LA – I decided to walk to the supermarket. Ha! Try that. We (still) live in a very tame and charming part of Hollywood (yes, I really live in Hollywood now. I’ve exchanged Laudonplace for those nine big white letters on the horizon) called Larchmont Village. Larchnomt is like Wisteria Lane with a Mexican touch, smaller houses and truly amazing gardens. Superb lawns, colorful flowers, palm trees. But no people. I’ve lived here for three weeks (including my last stay that would make six weeks in total) but I still haven’t found out where people are. They work alright. But don’t they ever drive to work, come home or pick their kids from school? I don’t know. The only time I see someone is a (very) random person walking the dog. Or even more random joggers who decide to surprisingly drop on the pavement and start doing push ups and stretches in front of you. Weird ritual.

It took me 13 minutes to walk to the supermarket. 13 more back. It was 18h, what should be the busiest time of the day. 26 minutes passing through the residential area during rush hour and I met one old woman. And one weird jogger who looked like a mixture of Brad Pitt and Steve Taylor.

Walking through LA is really a strange experience. You know that you are in one of the biggest cities in the world. You can feel the energy of the millions of people. You can hear the deep hum of the metropolis. You can smell the shit. But there’s no one around. Until you reach a busier street where you see people in their cars (there is always one (1) person in the car here. Wonder if there’s a special law for that) who stare at you in sheer amazement. A pedestrian!? The amazement was even bigger as I was returning from the supermarket, carrying those two white plastic bags. Because if you’re just walking, there’s still a chance you’re doing it because your healer/nutritionist/chiropractic recommended it. But if you’re carrying bags, it is clear that you are doing it (walking) for practical purposes, to get from point A to point B. And do errands somewhere in between. Practical is not a comprehensive term in this country/city if it does not include some kind of an environment-poisonig machine.

There was something very romantic about the walk home though. I walked through those charming Wisteria-meets-Mexico lanes and the drivers’ stares made me very aware of the two plastic bags of groceries I was carrying. I remembered my childhood in Zagreb. Around 16h, the city was swarmed with women returning home from work (they started at 08:00) each one carrying two white bags of groceries. I remembered standing at the balcony and watching my beautiful mum walking home with one white bag in each hand. I became homesick. But then I turned my head to the left and saw the Hollywood sign up on the hills. And the clash of those two things – these white letters and those white bags from the past - made it better. I am here to explore. By foot.

Fatal Attraction 2

University of Texas economist Daniel Hamermesh claims that a good-looking American male will earn two hundred-fifty thousand dollars extra during his lifetime than his less attractive colleagues. This is equivalent to about 1 1/2 additional years of schooling. If you’re interested in more information, his book "Beauty Pays" will be published next summer by Princeton University Press. But yes, it’s nothing new - we’ve all read numerous studies proving that beauty pays and attractive people have it easier in life.

What we haven’t heard yet is the following reaction:

Deborah Rhode, a law professor at Stanford University, wrote a book on the issue, "The Beauty Bias”. Ms. Rhode believes there need to be more state or local laws banning discrimination based on appearance.

Isn’t this just adorable? I’d like to hear Ms. Rhode argue her cases. Because, as we all know, beauty (and attractiveness for that matter) lies in the eye of beholder. Can't get more subjective. So how can you prove that someone was discriminated for his/her looks? Maybe Rhode would make templates defining what’s beautiful/attractive and what not. Yes, I’d love to see Ms. Rhode working on those laws. Maybe I could apply for an assisting position in her project. Must be extremely amusing.

And – how much war against discrimination is simply .... too much?

P.S. Homework for my readers: Please, practice feeling bad about liking whom you find attractive.

The Story of Stuff Project

I've seen Annie Leonard on Christiane Amanpour's show (have I ever mentioned I want to b Christiane Amanpour when I grow up?)  and her cartoon won me over. Sweet, charming, amusing and eye-opening. Her project is called "The Story of Stuff" and it is consisting of a book, the cartoon (20 minutes, you can watch it on the website) and the website (including interesting articles, links and ideas for action):

A very charming critical analysis of and warning against consumerism and its effects on our planet, health and well-being.

Yes, American, cartoonish and simplified but a great idea in a great direction!

Stop the Wars!

13 people (soldiers) killed, 30 wounded at the army base Ft. Hood, Texas. Come on, are we really supposed to be surprised?

The man was a psychiatrist, treating US soldiers who suffered from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) upon their return from Iraq and Afghanistan. We cannot imagine the horror stories he was listening to and dealing with day after day. Really, we are  sitting our living rooms watching CNN and think we know what war is about. WELL, WE DON'T! It is million times worse than anything we can imagine.

Plus, he is Muslim, his parents are from Palestine – the most unfairly treated country in the world since World War II. And he was to be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan (against his will) to kill other Muslims. Of course he was full of hatred, aggression and frustrations. He is just a human being. As everyone involved in this should be.

Those unnecessary wars must stop.

Baghdad Burning

Last night, I watched Baghdad Burning in Volkstheater. I hope it will be on programme next season – if you are in Vienna and understand German, go see it.The peace (1h20min monologue excellently played by Katharina Vötter) is based on a blog written by an Iraqi woman who started writing under pseudonym Riverbend on 17 August 2003. In her blog, she describes life in Iraq during the US occupation. Although the blog has been published in two books and staged in numerous countries, her identity is still hidden. In 2007, she and her family moved to Syria and she stopped writing her blog. The fascinating thing about the piece is that it makes you grasp, more emotionally, the stuff you think you already know – what it means to live in a war (“war on TV is not same like living in a war”, “will a plane ever sound like it did before?”), the chaos which took over since the occupation (controls, razzias, life without electricity and water and the kidnapping which became part of everyday life), how the status of women has changed (before the occupation, 50% of university students and 50% of employees were women – now they are accepted to stay home and wear headscarves and long coats). You will learn how the fear and the chaos passed a moderate Muslim country into the hands of fundamentalists. You will learn about what “rebuilding of Iraq” really means. When for rebuilding of a bridge, which Iraqi experts estimated to $300,000, a US company get $50 million, the business case of this war is quite clear. When you add the war industry and the oil industry to the rebuilding industry, the business case is even clearer. But mostly, you will ask yourself (hopefully) how can a country attack and completely devastate a country under false pretences, kill hundreds of thousands of people and stay unpunished. Will countries like USA and Israel keep their carte blanche for ever? And that is the tragedy of the story.

Links: Riverbend Wikipedia

Killer Kids

Yesterday, a German 17 years old boy killed 16 people. One day earlier, a USA boy killed 10. Few months before that, a kid killed 10 in Finland. We had more than 10 similar killings in past 15 years. What is this telling us about our “civilised” western society? Why is it only young men? Why were many of them on antidepressants? Why are all this men NOT coming from extremely poor or hard milieu? Why is Europe importing only shit from the USA?Parents are working hard, are continuously under stress to buy more cars and more Nike shoes and make a “career”. Kids are stuck in nurseries when they are 3 months old and see the corpses of their parents in the evenings (sometimes not even that) or weekends. Then they are fed with antidepressants, play brutal computer games and watch rubbish TV. They lack joy, love, closeness and a real connection to life in all its beauty. And then we wonder that they go nuts and start killing around. We shouldn’t wonder. It is not about having arms at home (BTW, why does a German businessman have 18 guns at home?). It is about what our society has turned into. What our priorities are. And if we are able to be really truly happy and satisfied. To selflessly love. And to love life. And transport this feeling to our kids. They are turning into angry, bloodthirsty, egoistic robots. Thank you, "development".

The Managers & Nancy Pelosi's Breasts

Today, I was thinking about the influence this crisis will have on the image of men. Because hey - they created the crisis! Especially those “winner” types: clever, strong, visionary…. fighters, winners, leaders. The MANAGERS. Will it move us more in the direction of…. the more handy men?So I asked my friends on Twitter/Facebook (and formulated my question a bit too clumsy): Will it move the idea of ideal man away from suit and tie? My favourite answer (to my stupid question): “I prefer them without clothes” I agree. But then… am not sure if I really wanna see the CEO of AIG naked. Anyway, if posed right, I think that the question is really interesting.

And my second thought of the day: God, it must be a hard job being Nancy Pelosi!!! I wonder how it must feel when a whole nation (or two or three) is staring at your breasts while they listen to their leader’s (too long) speeches? I think that the camera in the House of Congress urgently needs to find a different angle. Save the poor woman!