I saw them on TV, and from that day on, the song went round and round in my head. I decided to buy their cassette, but kids back then didn’t have their own pocket money. I’d heard of the term “an allowance,” but believe me, in socialist countries something like that was just a myth because it was unthinkable for a kid to possess money. We were given no more than a bit of loose change to buy some chewing gum or a soft drink. Asking my father for money seemed out of the question. So I decided to skimp on the chewing gum for a few weeks and try to save up the money that way.
I stood at the counter of the cassette shop with the money in my hand. When they handed me the cassette, I felt as if they were giving me the Holy Grail. The cover depicted the band members leaving planet Earth, and to me it seemed as if they were flying directly into my mind. The cassette player resounded with unprecedented force, fueling dreams within me of something bigger and grander. I replayed the first song over and over again and . . . that afternoon, while sitting in my father’s room that was his private world—so remote and inaccessible—I saw it as conquering new territories of the mind, my own personal “Final Countdown,” a dream of togetherness, unity, and mutual understanding, something that eluded not only the two of us, but the whole country as well.
But the world kept going, the clock was counting down: 10, 9, 8 . . . we were getting ready.
“What do you need this for?” my mother asked me upon discovering a switchblade in my backpack.
“For self-defense. Everyone in our group’s got one,” I replied, puzzled, as if she had asked me why I needed a soccer ball or a bicycle.
“This is dangerous,” she said, and to this day I’m not sure how she managed to hide that switchblade without my knowing, stashing it somewhere I never found it again.
. . . 7, 6, 5, 4 . . . we got into the car. My sister and I sat in the backseat that was covered with the obligatory bed sheet as was customary on the long journey to the coast.
. . . 3, 2, 1 . . . we set off for the coast! My mother couldn’t keep her eyes off me. I was embarrassed, but I knew how much our first summer spent together since I was three meant to her, the first vacation my father agreed we could go on together.
It wasn’t that long ago I had “met” her, maybe a year before that vacation. Prior to that I knew her as “the woman who sent me packages,” which I awaited with joy and a sense of guilt in not replying. All the wonderful crayons and pens, delicious cakes, toys and letters that were a mixture of both joy and sorrow for me, but which I couldn’t associate with any face. And so that’s why I substituted it with my aunt’s or my best friend Hare’s mother’s face, and when I went over to his place, I fantasized that his parents were mine, that I was part of a whole, rather than divided in two . . . My mother was also divided in two—now that I’m a parent, I know that. But what we didn’t know was that the country was also divided between those who believed in it and those who wanted to separate from it. To those in the former group, the idea of separating was akin to condemning oneself to being an orphan, something that was unthinkable to them.
We in Bosnia were part of that half of the people who believed in Yugoslavia. In no other republic did people swear by the name of our “Dear Tito!” and in no other republic had the spirit of togetherness developed in the way it did in Bosnia.
“Let me take over now,” I said to Maher. I was turning the lamb on a spit in his yard for the end of Ramadan feast. We took turns, and whenever an older member of his family would come outside, he would give us a few coins. We’d be beside ourselves with joy, and we’d turn the spit even harder and faster. After a job well done, we were rewarded with a bit of flatbread and a piece of lamb that we ate with relish. We had full stomachs and full hearts; we were happy and content, just like at Easter when we cracked red eggs with each other. We shared and celebrated everything together, both Christmas and Ramadan, always with one another, until they separated us.
Every evening, in the year of “our lord and savior Tito,” 1986, we sat in the yard of the house belonging to my mother’s aunt on the island of Hvar, playing cards.
Only thirty feet down below us, the choppy sea was gnawing away at the rocks, and providing an abundant breeding ground for the mosquitoes. The noise of the crickets was outdone only by the song “Orion” by Metallica from our little cassette player, beginning softly and mysteriously, and then blasting the heavy air saturated with the smell of bug spray.
“You plays good,” my best friends from Hvar—two Hungarian brothers from Vojvodina—said to my cousin, a drummer from Belgrade, while we were listening to the demo tapes of his band Revolt.
Summer came to an end, and after just managing to load all our things into our Zastava 101, we turned back to look at the house that farewelled us with graffiti scrawled on it reading “Faggot House.” Quite simply we were the wrong people in the wrong place.
Excerpt from the book “3 Minutes and 53 Seconds” (Goten, 2015)
Translated by Paul Filev
Copyright © Branko Prlja, 2015
I was eight years old and Africa was in trouble. The world was mobilizing itself. At the helm, one of the biggest stars—Michael Jackson—led a chorus of other stars with the song “We Are the World.” It was unforgettable. Anyone born in the late seventies remembers this as a magical moment when the world came together to do something to help those less fortunate. Live Aid followed later. The West collectively laundered its conscience through music.
The images of malnourished black children with distended bellies and protruding ribs left a deep impression on us throughout our childhood. We felt ashamed, guilty even, because we had enough food and water, we enjoyed free healthcare and school, not to mention all the major amenities of life. But, were we also “the world?”
The 1984 Winter Olympics ended and Yugoslavia finally earned its deserved place in the world as the culmination of a dream—the dream of our Marshal Tito on a white horse, who led us to a brighter future. But he passed away, and the future began to look a lot less bright. After the Olympics, it was as if all our dreams had been shattered. And the germ that brought with it inflation, ethnic hatred, territorial claims, and war began to sprout. The bobsled track, which world champions once whizzed down, became virtually covered with moss.
But none of us children felt any of that. In the tradition of the Olympic Games, we continued to uphold the positive spirit of sport and unity. Each of us had a hockey stick, and we used a tennis ball instead of a puck. We had a real blast.
The first snowfall of the season piled up high along our street, reaching above our heads. We spent the whole afternoon tirelessly and eagerly stamping it down. And in the morning we would go outside and plunge headlong into the snow.
One day, the team from the next street played against our street. The needlessly rough visitors physically dominated us on our home turf. One of our opponents was particularly aggressive. He tripped me up several times but I kept quiet. He was bigger, stronger, and more aggressive than me. And then he tripped me up again.
At that moment, I remembered the story that my father had once told me. “I had just been enrolled in a new school,” he said. “At recess, all the kids went out into the yard. Even though I was a bit shy, I forced myself to go outside to try and make a friend. But that wasn’t easy, so I sat down alone, feigning indifference. Then some kid came over to me. The conversation began innocently enough, but he quickly asked me why I’d beaten up his brother. I made it plain that I didn’t know who his brother was and told him what he just said wasn’t true.
“‘Hey Grami, this dude’s calling me a liar,’ he yelled out, and some big lug, who looked as though he’d been ripped right out of the side of one of the surrounding mountains, stepped menacingly toward me. I got the fright of my life. But at the same time, I realized there was only one way out of my situation. When the big lug approached me, I knew that I had only one chance to strike. I slugged him in the mouth without warning, so hard that he dropped to the ground like a sack of potatoes. His friend turned as white as a sheet. He quickly picked him up, and they both fled like headless chickens. From that day on, no one ever picked on me again at that school.”
I lay sprawled on the pavement, and in that moment my father’s story flashed through my mind. I didn’t want to do it, but I knew that I had to. I leaped from the ground as if jolted by lightning and kicked him hard in the shins. He was stunned. Then the tough boy that everyone was afraid of all of a sudden began apologizing profusely to me. No one could believe it. From that moment on, even the other team members began to tread carefully with us, and every time they ran into me they apologized. That day I became a hero among the group.
But not for long, because the group had more important heroes. Located at the end of our street was a local community hall that had pinball machines and a cinema. Every Saturday they showed films with Bruce Lee, Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris, Jackie Chan, and other idols of our childhood. One Saturday they were showing Rocky IV. Excitement and a sense of expectation about Rocky’s latest adventures steadily mounted.
At that time, the Cold War was coming to an end, and in the film the Russians were being portrayed as fanatics thirsty for American blood. But in the end of the film, they were presented as humane in their recognition of democratic values and human rights. However, we weren’t concerned about politics. We just cared about Rocky’s victory. He always took his fair share of punches, but was able to come back after almost being beaten to death to deliver his crushing blows. The archetypal movie character who rises up at the end of the film and heroically fights on behalf of the downtrodden exceeded all our expectations.
“Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor began to play. Rocky came back and landed one blow after another . . . the hulking, invincible bully began to totter. A wave of excitement swept through the hall and I began pounding the chair in front of me with my fists. My hands were hurting, but I didn’t stop because I wanted Rocky to win. I wanted the big bad Russian to go down, to be defeated for the sake of the poor, the hungry, and the dispossessed. In mid-trance, I raised my head and glanced around in the semidarkness of the cinema-hall. Everyone was doing the same thing. Everyone was pounding the seat in front of them. We were united, as one, carried along by a common desire, a common idea, a common dream.
Excerpt from the book “3 Minutes and 53 Seconds” (Goten, 2015)
Translated by Paul Filev
Copyright © Branko Prlja, 2015
A dark hallway with stairs made of large blocks of stone worn down over the years by the quick tread of thousands of children’s feet, kids with heavy thoughts on their minds and with even heavier backpacks almost bigger than themselves. At that time, the school was named after the Croatian poet “Silvije Strahimir Kranjčević,” but that was a mouthful and everyone just called it SSK.
The schoolyard was cracked from the large tree roots that poked through the asphalt, spurning the urban prison in which people agreed to be chained. Later on, the school became famous for its high wall that surrounded the yard. The wall also featured as a backdrop in a famous sketch filmed by the comedy troupe “The Surrealists’ Top Chart” depicting a fight between two different clans of garbage collectors—one from East and the other from West Sarajevo—throwing rubbish at each other. To be sure, Sarajevo soon afterward became a divided city, but in a different, more serious, and more tragic way.
That school held many secrets, like the secret of my grandfather’s fall down the stairs as he hurried to attend a parent-teacher meeting, the surgeries that followed, the blood clot, my departure to Skopje, his telephone call from the hospital, his death, and his not having the chance to ask for my forgiveness . . . but all that happened later on.
In 1984, the song “Thriller” by Michael Jackson was a popular hit. I was alone at home with my grandmother. She was ironing and I was watching TV, while the neighbors invited one another over for coffee by tapping on the radiator pipes. The music video started out innocently enough, but then got increasingly scary. As a hint of what was to happen to him in the years to come, Michael Jackson’s face transformed into the face of a monster and I froze with fear. I hid my face in my grandmother’s lap. She was a strong woman who had endured war and deprivation, cold and rheumatism, diabetes, and years of waiting for her husband’s release from the notorious Goli Otok prison. And her appearance not only filled me with admiration, but with a sense of security too.
“What’s wrong?” she asked worriedly, not waiting for my reply because she must have seen what was on the TV. “Now, now, don’t be scared. It’s just a film,” she said, ruffling my hair.
I closed my eyes and turned my head away. The glow from the chandelier produced a bright yellow light behind my eyelids. I saw the sun quite clearly above me, big and warm. I heard the sound of the sea waves, and the quiet, gentle breeze blowing through my hair . . .
When I opened my eyes, she was no longer there. She had gone, leaving behind two men and a young boy with unresolved mutual problems, torn apart by divorce, disputes, courts, and even child abduction. I lived in fear, and not because of “Thriller” or Nightmare on Elm Street, a popular horror film at the time. They of course did scare me, but what I was even more afraid of was the image of my mother imposed on me by the people I lived with and who I loved dearly. In my mind and in my dreams, she was the evil witch who chased me, while I foolishly and desperately tried to get away, only to end up falling into a bottomless well—every night. I would wake up screaming beside my grandfather, who slept so soundly that nothing ever woke him.
Then I started seeing apparitions, things that didn’t exist, and yet they were right there before me. Waking up always brought with it new and mysterious figures that I could almost touch until they would just vanish. I knew these figures wanted to tell me something, but I never worked out what it was because I didn’t really give it much thought. Yes, kids want to live, not to think, especially when right outside your door something magical and unforgettable is taking place—the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics.
One of the rare childhood photographs that I still possess, that didn’t get lost in the whirlwind of the war, is a picture of me with Vučko, the Olympic Games mascot, who was something much more than just that. Vučko was a friendly image of a wolf. The wolf found in the forests of Yugoslavia, a proud and courageous animal that lives in a pack to which it owes its survival. Without the pack, he’s just a lone wolf, doomed to living out his days in anticipation of the end, as we ourselves would soon come to do.
“Get up now, kid,” the photographer said to me. “Come on, let go of Vučko. There’re others waiting to have their photo taken with him.” My grip on Vučko remained firm. I didn’t want to let go of him. I wanted him to be mine because he felt like something stable, something reliable that I wanted to hold on to. He was something positive and cheerful, something I could be happy about. And not only that, he brightened everything up at the kindergarten. Because of him, the instant mashed potatoes that smelled like detergent, the macaroni cheese baked beyond recognition, the rice swimming in oil, the physical bullying by the bigger kids or the painful smacks of the teacher’s ruler over my small hand all seemed almost bearable.
My grandmother died. For the first time in my life, I saw my father cry. The second time would be six years later when he would be saying goodbye to me. The Winter Olympics finished. I became a first-grader. But none of that was important because all my thoughts were of just her—my first great love.
Excerpt from the book “3 Minutes and 53 Seconds” (Goten, 2015)
Translated by Paul Filev
Copyright © Branko Prlja, 2015
The books of the series “Small Factopedia” are aimed at younger (and, why not, older) population and their acquaintance with some of the most important figures from the world of science, art, music, culture and the influence that they had on the humanity, but also on our lives. Explore the “Extraordinary Facts” of their lives and be inspired to find out more about what makes these people special, and you may want to do something more about yourself, the people around you, and – why not – change the world!
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The Newton’s Apple!… and other extraordinary facts from the life of Isaac Newton
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Extraordinary Facts From the Life of Albert Einstein
Extraordinary Facts From the Life of Nikola Tesla
1990. I’m leaving Sarajevo forever. Soon after my departure, the war will begin and I will never return there again. Those who know me know that for me my comrades are the most important thing in life. “First outside. Last back home.”
In my new home, Skopje, I have no friends. But that’s why I have my skateboard with fluorescent plastic brakes, as Josh Browlin from the film Treshin’ and the famous brightly colored 80s. “I’m trashin'” in the streets of my unfamiliar and new city for me, although Skopje is the city of my ancestors. The first thing I notice when I grate the asphalt is the endless plain, the great boulevards and the bicycle paths that allow me a smooth and long, long drive. This is unusual for someone born in Sarajevo and accustomed to steep hills and narrow streets.
My lonely journeys through Skopje on a skateboard or my BMX with stickers led me from Debar Maalo, by the quay, through the Stone Bridge to “Kultura” in the building of the Music School. The child who loved people became a boy who loves books. I spend hours and hours in the big bookstore “Kultura” in it’s big dark hall, while the middle-aged ladies behind the cashier and the house plants next to the book shelves are silent to my presence.
Outside, my bike is waiting for me, and then with the new book in the backpack, I head to the MNT to the curved side surfaces, excellent for the speed launch and the countless stairs that break the plain and bring me into new adventures.
In Sarajevo, from my street towards the former “Hajduk Veljkova”, large and long stairs led downstairs and were a challenge for every good biker. Immediately after that we descended to the Music Academy and the Catholic Cathedral and we ended up in the old-bazaar where we skillfully avoided the people. In my new city, the stairs before the MNT offer the same excitement, but this time without a faithful companion next to me and his common smile, the purchase of ice cream and Coca-Cola in the local grocery store after the 1985 Olympic Games.
Again in Skopje, its endless flat space, the old Stone Bridge, the bookstore “Kultura”, the plateau in front of the MNT and then, a new discovery, Tabernakul, the new bookstore in the premises of MNT, and inside – the new world of alternative literature, comics and art, “Margina” number 2, a magazine that changes my worldview forever.
Soon in my life, new frinds will enter, and they will slightly diminish the pain of the newly emerging situation in my former city, the metal rains, shocks and shouts, the ignorance of the fate of my former comrades.
With my new friends, Timur and Vlado, we are constantly challenging and proving who is braver, stronger or better. Regardless of whether we are on Vodno and we are racing to the top, or we are behind the Zoo and climbing the wall that surrounds the wild pigs, with a plan to catch them with spears, like Rambo in 1982’s eponymous movie.
Agaian in front of MNT.
“Who will go first?” I ask.
“Timur is the tallest, he will hold his hands and we will climb up on him, then we will help him,” Vlado says.
We are soon on the roof of the MNT and we are heading up. Those who know me know that I have fear of height from childhood, but Timur and Vlado still do not know me well and I have to hide my fears. We are at the top and we lie down the edge. I look down and I don’t feel my legs. However, I soon relax and enjoy the view from the height of my new city, satisfied with the lost of fear and the achieved “mission.”
In our childish naivety, we imagine the winter that is coming. We will take my plastic skis, which each member of my former company had in the cold and snowy Sarajevo, and we will descend down the roof of the MNT down … and then when we reach the edge … nobody knows.
But one thing I know – in front of us is the infinity of fantasy!
June 21, 2016
(the text is published as part of the book for the exhibition “Heroes for a Day” at MOB)
In Eastern philosophy and Buddhism there is a concept called “impermanence”, and in ancient western philosophy we identify the same with “Panta Rei” of Democritus “the dark” that we translate with “everything flows”. In the modern pop-mythology on these two concepts, the popular “Seize the Day” or “Carpe Diem” is added. All these condensed philosophies that have found their way into the popular culture through the so-called “one-liners”, contain the same Buddhist root of constant change, unrest, and inherent feature of the universe to be in constant motion. Man needs to adapt to such a nature of things and do as much as he can, which is to use these instant-philosophies for his own benefit and to get the best out of it, or in the true modern spirit, seize the day.
But despite such an intention of the modern man to adapt these philosophies to everyday practical life, there is something deeply unsettling in their essence. In the ancient Western philosophies that laid the ideological foundations of modern Western civilization, the world came from chaos, which is a state of utter restlessness, and from it came the “order” or the so-called “cosmos”, the world we know, which relies on the principles of causality and clarity, a world we understand and can be clearly defined. This clearly identifies the roots of Western spirituality, which are based on simple rules for action that we must respect if we want to live in a harmonious and meaningful world, rather than in chaos, internal or external. Science, especially physics, superficially seems to agree with this view. We live in one seemingly mechanical world of Descartes, in which each cause has a consequence and every part works according to the whole. Newton’s and even Einstein’s view does not offer a fundamentally different image of law-led space, although are formally different from those of Descartes.
So, there are clear laws governing the world, but if we look more closely, like in the scene with the garden in the movie “Blue Velvet” by David Lynch , where the idyllic representation of the American suburban life framed in the stage of the father who waters the grass in the garden is disturbed with his death and introduces us to the reality of the “not so idyllic” green garden where there is another life of insects, a constant movement, an untamable nature in which there are no rules, emotions or harmony, in one word, if we look closer, we see chaos.
Such an insight into the true state of nature is provided by quantum physics (and the more exotic theories of chaos, strings, etc.), which shows that in the basis of nature there is no order and logic, but chaos, paradoxes, the existence of the same particle in two places, spontaneous disappearance and appearance elsewhere, the binding of particles with a “spooky action at a distance”, and it seems that in this theory the light itself cannot be considered either as a particle or wave, so it refers to one or the other way, depending on… be careful – do you observe it or not! I will not pretend to understand quantum physics and I’m not a physicist, but its concepts fascinate me deeply. Schrodinger, one of the founders of quantum physics, said: “If you think you understand quantum physics, you do not understand it,” so I hope that in this context you will allow me to convey my fascination without questioning my expertise.
But the question arises, how did we come to quantum physics from the Indian philosophy? First of all, the most important scientists in the study of the atomic and quantum world, Schrodinger (Nobel Laureate, also known for his cat), Heisenberg (the uncertainty principle, Nobel laureate and famous in the pop culture from the series Braking Bad), Oppenheimer (the father of the atomic bomb) and finally, but not the last, Niels Bohr (Nobel laureate), every one of them read Indian texts like the Vedas and Upanishads, Vedanta, Bhagavad gita and others, and some of them even read in Sanskrit. According to certain findings, the roots of key concepts in quantum physics can be found in these works that provide a deep insight into the nature of reality that is not shown in the ordinary observation, but only by means of meditation or mathematical concepts in the case of science. But quantum physics is not just philosophy, hypothesis or theory, it is the most tested and verified theory in the history of science.
Once we have found the connection between Indian philosophy and science, we come back to the concept of inconsistency in everyday life, the idea of transience that, whenever you try to catch your slip from your hands like a moist soap. All of these above-mentioned questions were imposed to me when, in an attempt to make an archive of texts in the media about my works, after actively publishing prose, with my name for several years, and under the pseudonym Branko Prlja, for 15 years. For years I have been trying to do this, but every time I said “another time”, partly because it’s a boring, archival and somewhat self-serving procedure. Who am I to do an archive of texts about myself? But let’s say, for practical reasons, I needed such an archive.
To my surprise, I soon became aware that much of the texts I previously seen online now were nowhere to be found. Some of them disappeared with the extinguishing of newspapers such as “Utrinski vesnik”, “Denes” and the like, but another part that should exist in other media like “Nova Makedonija” were also missing. Probably, by updating their sites and bases, they also disappeared in that process. After all attempts, even for texts from just a few years ago, I had to quit. I found part of them in print format, which made me think about the impermanence of the digital world, the world made up of units and zeros, laser, magnetic, electronic records on the medium, and hence the impermanence of the world in general, composed of electrons and protons, neutrinos, and quarks.
When I was a child, I felt a great fear between 6 and 9 years old, prompted by the knowledge that everything is not going to last, that every moment of happiness I experience is only an illusion that is transient and will soon be replaced with another, as an unstoppable and transient experience. Looking from today’s perspective, maybe that’s why I decided to write, and shift into eternity that moment that is slippery and refuses to be obeyed. But the “record” itself is not eternal, and maybe the nature of things is to be transient, like the mandala that the Buddhists, again from the movie “The Little Buddha,” make it from the sand, carefully and for a long time, and then it is destroyed by one move.
In the field of digital and virtual, it seems to me that this principle is even more present than in reality. Millions of words, pictures, videos that we believe “once they have gone to the internet there will be there forever”, and are created in huge quantities at any moment. But regardless of whether you consider the Internet to be a “cloud of data” or an ether, it is not a non-physical form of existence, it is located somewhere on a hard disk in a database and at best a case in a silos shielded from a nuclear attack in the Scandinavian countries of Europe. But it’s more likely that your data is stored on a local server and as soon as you stop paying for the service, or the media stops running, they will be deleted.
But, physical writing of the data is not eternal, your precious archives on a CD or DVD have a 25-year run, hard drives are even less durable, and flash memories are more permanent, however, provided you do not write or delete too much, one error and all data are irretrievably lost. The film “Blade Runner 2049“ mentions an event called “blackout” that erased all electronic records for replicants. One of them tells how his mother still complains about pictures of him when he was a baby and concludes that it was funny that only paper survived. The inconstancy is in the quantum nature of things, and this is the main obstacle in the creation of quantum computers and the next computer era, otherwise we would live in the future as foreseen by the science-fiction novels of the past.
The real, macro-world is fortunately somewhat different, and here with a reserve you can accept our initial theses about the transience at least when it comes to data archiving. In the macro-world we represent only the realization of the possibilities that exist in the micro-world, according to which in some way these precepts do not apply to our world. What does that mean? First of all, it means that the newspaper where you gave an interview 12 years ago will not spontaneously combust itself, and the book that you have printed in hard copy will probably be preserved for 100 years. Of course, all these things are not eternal, they can be lost or destroyed in countless ways, but they will not spontaneously disappear. So, occasionally remind yourself to print your pictures, write something on paper, and save the newspaper that contains a fond memory or important information. And in the meantime – “Carpe Diem!”.
Dec 13, 2018
 If we trust the movie “The Little Buddha” (1993), as a good popularization of the theme of Buddhism.
 Popularised in the film “Dead Poets Society”, 1989, with a famous replica whispered by Robin Williams.
 Latin aphorism from the Roman poet Horace.
 Blue Velvet (1986)
 Taken from the interpretation of the movie “Blue Velvet” according to philosopher Slavoj Zizek, in his documentary The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema (2006).
 According to Albert Einstein, a quote that shows that Einstein himself was suspicious about quantum physics, and in this context his statement ” God does not play dice” is known.
 Erwin Schrödinger (1887–1961)
 A mental experiment that shows one of the fundamental aspects of quantum physics, i.e. quantum superposition (as in the example with light, at the same time particle and wave), transferred to everyday life. For more, visit the link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schr%C3%B6dinger%27s_cat
 Werner Karl Heisenberg (1901–1976)
 Breaking Bad (2008-2013), the main character Walter White is also represented as Heisenberg, according to the German scientist.
 J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967). His quotation from Bhagavad-Gita is known on the occasion of the first successful nuclear bomb test on July 16, 1945 (“Now I am Death, the destroyer of the worlds”)
 Niels Henrik David Bohr (1885–1962)
 According to estimates in the middle of 2018, 2.5 quintillion (2.5×1019) are produced every day in the world, and only 90% of the total amount of information in human history has been created in recent years. Of course, not all information is top artwork or quantum physics, but nevertheless both are information.
 The truth is that no one can accurately predict how long a CD will last, and that depends on its quality (and most often we bought the most innocent “Nenayum” media), the way they are stored (most commonly in bells, what are bad conditions ), the conditions in which they are stored (for example, the easiest way to destroy them if you store them in a cola exposed in the sun), whether they are used much and the like. In ideal conditions it should last more, but there are no such conditions in the home.
 Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
In the era of the Internet and sites like Yelp (a site where users can leave reviews for locals) and social media, everyone can visit some place and become its critic. In that spirit, the author of this text appears in the role of “not so much a critic” as far as “a typical text by Bert Stein in which he talks about music, culture and the past, and through that prism, he makes a parallel with the present,” but that title is certainly boring and long, and therefore forget about it!
What did I actually want to tell you about? About the fact that in the last days I often go to the Rock Bar Krug, which for some reason (the four letters, the sign, the atmosphere, the music!? …) I often mistakenly call “Dors” (derived from Doors), a magical place known to the older alternatives of 90s of the past century in Skopje. Of course, those who follow my writings know that they are nostalgic after that era, so do not expect this to be different!
In the 90s in Skopje there were many places where alternative youth could be found like Baghdad-cafe, Dors, Dzadzo, 21, to New Age, ZZ, Music Garden, Energy, SF and others, today these places are rare, but also alternative people in Skopje are also rare. Perhaps partly because of the hypster movement in which tattoos became fashion, which in itself is paradoxical, because fashions are transient, and tattoos are permanent. Long hair in the 90s meant insurrection, disregard for things, differentiation and someone rarely decided to shave his scalp under the long hair, and when he did, he was an incarnation of Phil Anselmo from Panthera. Today, any “turbofolk” person (in terms of behavior and attitudes towards life, not necessarily in relation to the music he is listening to) can grow a beard, make a Man Bun and get tattooed. Today, children in elementary school (seen by the author of the text, even in the third grade), paint their hair blue, and in the 90s this meant reprimanding or being thrown away from high school. In my works, my adventures with professors and the director of the gymnasium “Josip Broz Tito” have already been recorded, just because I had long hair, and I will not write about that topic again. But times are changing and I would not like to sound like someone who is afraid of the changes. I am glad that we are up to date with the world trends, although it only applies to hairstyles, and I hope that through that our art, science or ecology will be influenced also. But let’s not turn in a circle (krug) and move to the point.
In the “Krug” (Circle) on the upper floor there is a beautiful long wooden table without legs, tilted to the walls, like I have always dreamed of having at home, and a some of my texts (like this one!) was created on it. I do not know why, but when I sit in a café, creativity flows out from me like an unstoppable river, and I just follow it, I let myself to the flow without resistance. Often I wonder what is motivating me to create when I am surrounded by sounds and movements, when in a life contrary to that, I search for loneliness, withdrawal and like to be left alone with my thoughts.
Yes, life requires harmony and balance, if we want to be creative and productive individuals for ourselves and for the society. But, it seems to me that I (we) need good music as a background or a kind of “soundtrack” of life. Without it, life would really be empty, and the music in “Circle” will take you to the grunge and punk rock of the 90’s through Nirvana, Green Day, GNR, The Cranberries, REM, Lenny Kravitz, but also back to rock sound the 80s with Joan Jett, AC/DC, U2 or 70’s and the psychedelic or hard-rock tones of The Doors, Rolling Stones, ZZ Top, Eagles, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Queen and others. And while the solo guitar in Whola Lotta Love “cuts through” the air inside the café, outside the pollution in the Aerodrom is at its maximum. Nothing new, right. It seems to me that this is the normal state of affairs in our little country. It is our reality with which we live, whether we like it or not. Of course I’m talking about pollution, not about the good music.
“Circle” is a place for lovers of real music, wtih kind waiters, a macchiato for 60 denars (1 euro), custom made for the people’s pocket. For the rest I leave the “pop” cafés and their expensive coffees – I hope the word has not lost meaning in the past decades, and formerly meant “non-alternative”, “conformists”, “those who listen to popular music”. Besides the things listed, when you visit the “Circle”, the upper large table the irresistible, always present and as great as the Bible, “Course in General Chemistry” (1965) in Bulgarian will welcome you as well. But what is the relationship between chemistry and music? As chemistry, physics and biology teach us, circling things in nature is an important thing and without it there would be no living world, so in human society it is necessary to replace old things with new ones. Grunge, plaid shirts and tangled long hair with should be replaced with Man Buns and hypster tattoos, and that’s natural and necessary. But as fashion and music periodically go backwards to go forward, through the so-called retro styles, it is also necessary for young people to know about the different times, attitudes and the ways of living. We can call it a circle of things in culture if we want it to live and be fruitful. My mission as a writer is to do it through my works and I rejoice when there are places like “Circle” to remind us of the different music and atmosphere of clubs from the previous decades, because modern life sometimes blinds us with its speed and sometimes it’s necessary to stop, reduce the speed to 45, and look around us. And then we may become aware that the LP turns into “Circle”!
Dec 12, 2018
My grandfather was not as tall although he was Montenegrin, but he was a strong man, with thick white mustache yellowed with cigarette smoking, and he smoked cigarettes like his life depended on them. He smoked all kinds, from “Sarajevo Drina” to “HB,” but he also bought tobacco from the village, kept it in jars and wrapped cigarettes from it. The drawers were full of cigarette packs and lighters that were given to him by his fellow fighters from the National Liberation Army Club in the center of Sarajevo, near the “Sarajka” department store, surrounded by a large park and trees, where as children we descended the slopes with our poems and be-em-iks, inspired by films like “E.T. the Extraterrestrial”. But my grandfather did not care about this American influence, because he was a hardcore socialist, just as he was a hardcore smoker.
Judging by the number of cigarette lighters in the drawers, he did not succed to repair them, and it was even more strange that he lighted his hand-wrapped cigarettes with a flint stone that he kept in a small leather case along with a piece of special mushroom. He would take the stone, put the mushroom on it and hit several times with a piece of metal, after which the mushroom began to smoke from the spark of the stone. So cigarettes burned, and I sat next to him surrounded by cigarette smoke and together we watched Yugoslav films and series, and he told me about the Second World War.
“It was 1943 on Neretva,” I try to remember the conversations that, like in the mist, reverberate in the memories. My grandfather was a Montenegrin partisan who fought in the official battles in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and who knows the history of the Second World War knows that the bloodiest battles were taking place there. “Give me your hand,” he took my little hand with his hairy and aging hands, with the yellowed fingers of tobacco, and with my two fingers pressed on his leg, where I could clearly feel something hard. “It’s a bullet,” he told me, and then continued to tell me how he was wounded in the war, no less or no more, but – 12 times! He was operated without anestesia multiple times, and those bullets that could not be removed were left in his leg, his hand and who knows where else. In the community was considered some kind of a human phenomenon, and not just because he was a medical miracle that walks on two legs, but he was also a kind of mathematical wunderkind who could randomly calculate large numbers for which others needed a calculator.
… looked from another perspective, there was another Yugoslavia …
With his warrior-friends they gathered in the Club of Fighters, a magical place for me, where there was a playground covered with sand. They teamed up there, those war veterans in the fight against the Nazi occupier, and now took put stone balls instead of machine guns and bombs and threw them in the air, trying to strike other stone balls and get as close as possible to the little ball. When they did not compete in this game, another war started on the tables covered with green material, where they made machine gun nests from queens and kings, and instead of ammunition they threw money. My grandfather, although he was a good mathematician, often lost in these games, at least that is how I remember things, because they spied on his cards in his thick dark glasses. Maybe he was losing because he did not see good anymore, he walked with a cane and had constant pain in his legs, but mostly because after my grandmother died, his partisan love, he was half of my old grandfather as I knew him.
“Young Partisan Girl”, a famous song to all who grew up in Yugoslavia, but for me also the concept of my grandmother. Bosnian woman, who, like my grandfather, participated in the same battles, but on the other side of the trenches, as a nurse, she met him there, after which an “instant classic” from Yugoslav partisan films arose. But before that, her adventures meant hunger, a great hunger from which comrades died, hiding from the Germans for days on the mountains, in the snow, in the holes in the earth covered with branches, and from this she got rheumatism and twisted fingers. But she never complained, on the contrary, she gave commands and led the whole family, until her death, when the command was dissolved, my family collapsed, and in parallel my country.
However, looked from another perspective, there was another Yugoslavia, which did not imply partisans and socialism, but also kingdom, aristocracy and private property. It was Yugoslavia before the Second World War, long before I was born, but my ancestors, my other grandfather and grandmother, were part of it, and as young capitalists in Skopje (Macedonia) in the 1920s, in the era of the birth of SHS, they built houses, factories and bought property that will be taken away, and they themselves will be called “rotten capitalists”. That is my Yugoslavia, contradictory, romantic and tragic, and paradoxical.
When we were children, in the 80s of the 20th century, I did not know another nation except Yugoslav, my friends, now I know, most were Muslims and Croats, some a Serb, but all were the same for me and such a spirit was built in Yugoslavia, especially in Bosnia where they swore in everything with “My dear Tito!”. I loved Tito, because we all loved him, we glued stickers with his face at home, we had him on the notebooks and every day we watched him on the wall of the classroom. But my grandfather did not love Tito. Why? Because my grandfather loved Stalin, and Tito betrayed Stalin. But why would anyone like a mass killer? To understand this, you need to imagine a young man who fought for the socialist ideal in the war and could not give up that for what he received 12 bullets. But he did not talk about it, except when he was provoked by the spies of the system in the National Liberation Army Club, so he could not refrain himself. And then they reported him and he ended up on Goli Otok, twice in two and a half years.
…in the tragedy hides the joy of living…
My grandmother waited for him, the first and second time. In Yugoslavia there were no divorces, at least not as much as today, there was no internet, there were no hundreds of channels on TV, there were no mobile phones and no one did selfies, the cult of the person was dedicated to one and only character – Tito, but we had everything we need, freedom, parents returning from work by 3 o’clock PM, birthday parties with Coca-Cola and chios, playing outside, endlessly playing outside on the street when the dense Sarajevo smog, from which the snow turned black, was a normal part of everyday life, and the children were calling each-other going from door to door instead on the mobile phone. I’m not saying that everything was better, but it was certainly different.
This is Yugoslavia for me, my country that no longer exists, my childhood and friends from all nations and religions, the Kingdom of SHS and the Federal Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia, the King, Tito and Stalin, the Brotherhood and Unity and Goli Otok, capitalism and Coca-Cola Socialism, freedom, disintegration, war, death and the loss of all my friends from childhood … a story that has been told many times, but who has not survived it will never find out that in the tragedy hides the joy of living.
Dec 11, 2018