This article at RFE/RL also does a pretty good job of laying out what's at stake for Moldova. It also touches on the political means by which the president could keep his cards at play.
Friday, July 31, 2009
The world's only freely-elected Communist government is no longer... Moldova booted out the Communists in elections this week.
It is a complicated little country and caught in Russia's tangled net.
And every time the country tries to get back up after being punched and kicked, it gets as far as its knees and then gets knocked down again.
And it is wholly ignored by the rest of the world. Raise your hand if, a) You've heard of Moldova or b) Know where it is. My point exactly.
View Moldova in a larger map
Moldova is a microcosm of everything that was wrong with the Soviet Union, and everything that is wrong with the post-Soviet era. It has no industry, excessive poverty (with associated alcoholism and depression), a lot of mafia, and its own breakaway republic that the world ignores at its own peril.
When I heard that Eric Weiner rated it the most depressed country on Earth in his book "Geography of Bliss," it was no surprise to me. Moldova felt hopeless to me when I was there (albeit it was during a very difficult personal time).
Doing anything positive was done in a morass of hopelessness. This is how I felt about the people in the country: they were ignored and left out, so they just went around ignoring each other.
I was once walking along the street and noted that the few other people out were walking around something, creating a wide berth. It wasn't long before I realized they were walking past a man who was lying unconscious.
Despite being ignored, and presumably with little, if any, Western coaching in How to Stage a Revolution (aka Ukraine, Serbia, Georgia, etc.), maybe things are changing.
This European Voice article does a good job of explaining Moldova to the uninitiated.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
I see a massage guy once a week to work on my troublesome neck and back.
His name is Karol but insist I call him Charlie, and from time to time, tests out on me a new English word he's learned.
He is Slovak, I am American, and we communicate in German.
Charlie has been completely deaf since he was three so he reads lips. And he sometimes has trouble understanding my foreign accent. He looks closely at my mouth and watches the way the words are formed. He sees that the way I form the word "sommer" or "Serbische" -- is different from his native German speakers, and it throws him off.
I find it fascinating that someone could define, through the shape of the mouth and without the aid of ears, the subtle differences of an "o" or an "e." He has an incredible mastery of language.
He's not fascinated, just frustrated. No one told him when he learned to read lips that he'd also have to learn to deal with bloody farners like me.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
When I flew to Nottingham last week, three of us had to hold the plane door shut so the muscly mosquito pulling just as hard on the other side couldn't get in. It was a fight to the end.
But as of a couple of days ago, the Mosquitoes of Hainburg have gone. I think they were rounded up and recruited by the Slovak mafia.
Posted by Patti McCracken at 8:32 PM
Monday, July 27, 2009
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Just back from a trip to Nottingham, a city that is the Gary, Indiana, of the UK, and all the images that conjures.
I rented a car to get there from Stansted Airport. When my meeting was over, I fled Sherwood Forest and nipped down to Cookham to surprise my sister, clipping a few curbs along the way. I'm used to right-hand drive, thanks to Sir George the Black Cab, but I'm not used to the wrong side the road. It messes with your head--spatial relationships are all off and you find you consciously have to pull the car right. Otherwise, you drift toward the left and clip curbs.
Anyhow, no scratches. Both side mirrors still in place.
My sister and family were surprised AND happy to see me, so the risky move paid off.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Objective journalism and an opinion column are about as similar as the Bible and Playboy magazine.
Our job is only to hold up the mirror - to tell and show the public what has happened.
In seeking truth you have to get both sides of a story.
There is no such thing as a little freedom. Either you are all free, or you are not free.
There's a little more ego involved in these jobs than people might realize.
My mother was horrified and frightened, as I suppose many mothers have been, or should have been, when their children got into newspapering.
Everything is being compressed into tiny tablets. You take a little pill of news every day - 23 minutes - and that's supposed to be enough.
I can't imagine a person becoming a success who doesn't give this game of life everything he's got.
And that's the way it is.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Managed to buy the only ipod/itouch ever manufactured that does NOT have the capacity to record. Discovered this too late.
Have since been doing all kinds of little dances to get the recording done for interviews. I generally record the interview on my cell phone, then email the audio to myself.
The latest: Cell phone-recorded interview was a few KB too big to email, so I opened imovie, set it to isight, put cell phone face down on the macbooks mic area, and recorded the recording. All so that I can keep a file. And also transcribe.
I miss pencils.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Just back from a movie in neighboring Bratislava.
Can someone please tell me why the Slovaks put pedestrian crossings on a major highway?
And why anyone dares to use them?
But maybe its safer than using the ones in town, since at least drivers try to slam to a halt.
It works conversely in town, by the way, wherein drivers see the zebra crossing as a Nascar "AND THEY'RE OFF!!!" cue.
And what's with the STOP sign AND the traffic light at the same intersection?! Europe loves this.
I mean, why do I need both? It's like using a diaphragm and the pill. And a condom just in case.
Until, of course, the light turns green. So there I sit, looking at the green light. Then at the stop sign. Then back at the green light. Paralyzed. And along comes a Slovak driver behind me, his sights on a zebra crossing. Gentlemen, start your engines.
Monday, July 13, 2009
When I lived on Capitol Hill, I'd do the following on Saturday mornings:
1) Remove myself from bed.
2) Remove PJs. Put on Too Big For Me T-Shirt, levis, baseball cap, ratty shoes.
3) Avoid mirror
4) Leash dog and head to Congress Market for: a) Washington Post, b) Chocolate Donut, c) Coffee.
5) Sit on Capitol lawn and eat donut, drink coffee, read paper. Dog did what she pleased.
Later I'd stroll over to Eastern Market to zigzag through the flea market (once got a 2 dollar toaster that I kept for 15 years). Then I'd head inside.
Eastern Market had most anything you wanted and was wayy better than the Soviet Safeway a few blocks away (so named because it never had nothin').
Finally, I'd stand in a hot line, fans blowing above, to give my crabcake order to bosomy, bombastic black women who must have dealt with hundreds of customers each lunchtime. You had to be snappy and know what you wanted, but it kept that line moving well.
Eastern Market was devastated by fire in 2007 but reopened its doors last weekend.
NPR Morning Edition had a story on it Sunday.
The Congress Market marker (see map below) is a little off (it must have slipped when I placed it). It should be situated directly on East Capitol Street. If you don't see the markers, just scroll across until they appear.
View Eastern Market, Congress Market Capitol Hill in a larger map
Posted by Patti McCracken at 5:57 PM
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Here are portions (introductory) of two chapters I contributed to a book on EU crisis response. The first two "pages" are about the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The final two are about Syria's Iraqi refugees. Click on the little magnifying glass to view larger.
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Remi and I swung by the cafe just now. The owner was closing early but opened back up to let Remi into the kitchen for a goodie. Owner said she was closing early because "look at the streets! Empty. Everyone in Hainburg has gone home to watch the Michael Jackson tribute."
Posted by Patti McCracken at 7:00 PM
Monday, July 06, 2009
He came onstage with an accordian strapped to himself and began a whimsical rendition of the Blue Danube Waltz, to win the hearts of the some 40,000 fans gathered in the stadium in Vienna. He needn't try at all, but the gesture was charming, and all Bruce.
For this American, it was a great way to spend a Fourth of July weekend, with our brother Bruce out there playing and singing with everything in him, bringing everybody together.
The acoustics? Ick. Bad. Horrible. But that's not his fault.
And if you look closely at the video snippets, you can see The Boss singing directly to me, sitting in Section B, Row 25, Seat 18 of the upper, upper, upper tier.
Friday, July 03, 2009
I've been busy wrapping up an article for Smithsonian Magazine--and still dealing with the pinched nerve in my neck--the neck problem or just being snowed under will usually account for my lack of posts.
The village of Kittsee has a little section of it known as "Chikago." A while back I snooped around as to why, and it turns out it's simply this: several Kittsee-ians immigrated to Chicago (the real one) beginning in the late 1800s to work in factories.
Kittsee is in the Austrian state/region of Burgenland, and there is an active club of "Burgenlanders" in the Chicagoland area.
It's called Chikago, but I haven't found any music venues. And no Billy Goat Taverns. And no baseball.
But a couple of miles down the road there is an "Al Caponne" pizzeria... should I tell anyone about the spelling problems?