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Archive for October, 2008

Don’t buy a Bulgarian football club

I know it’s on your to-do list, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  I also know you read the Sofia Echo, so you’ve seen this already:

Holding the presidency of a football club can be hazardous – even deadly – in Bulgaria. Dozens of examples over the past 19 years attest to this. The latest is that of Yordan Andreev, president of second division Marek football club from the small southern town of Doupnitsa.

Andreev was beaten by two unidentified men on October 27, possibly in relation to match-fixing allegations.  This is standard operating procedure for Eastern European football, with club owners alternately being accused of crimes and shot at.  The Sofia Echo listed some cases from Bulgaria:

Kostadin Hadjiivanov, owner, Belassitsa Football Club:  Arrested on smuggling charges.

Ivan Slavkov, president, Spartak Varna:  Charged with human trafficking and money laundering.

Angel Bonchev, president, Litex Lovech:  Kidnapped along with his wife.  (Both were found alive, she was unharmed but he was missing two fingers.)

There’s also Alexander Tassev, the third chairman of Lokomotiv Plovdiv to be murdered within two years.  (He had been under investigation for vote-buying and fuel smuggling.) Three football club chairmen were murdered in Bulgaria in 2004 alone.

Football is a nasty business in the former Soviet bloc.  The game is tainted by the hooligans, (often associated with paramilitaries,) and the mafia influence and violence.  Referees have been suspended and coaches and clubs investigated.  Serbian warlord Arkan once ran FK Obilic, and when he met a fitting end, his wife took over the club.  Unfortunately, the football fits its societies, so it’s unlikely that these problems can be addressed simply by sports oversight mechanisms.  Until the governments in the former Soviet bloc get a handle on organized crime, the football scene will continue to be tainted by violence.

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Gagner épique!

A comfortable four years removed from my last French class, I’m not even sure that translates right.  But consider it your cheap setup for election year zydeco:

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This is an actual title of a play:

“The Communist Dracula Pageant – by Americans, for Americans; a play about the Romanian Revolution of 1989 with hallucinations, phosphorescence, and bears.”

Need photographic evidence?

Comrade Vlad

Comrade Vlad

It’s worth checking out if you’re in Boston.  The review is decent, although the critic “honestly can’t tell you just what the bears are for.”  Obviously, they’re for stage direction.  Because really, no one has used that before.

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As we recently discussed, the Obama team has perfected the zeitgeist campaign.  Some of it is intentional, (the text messages, the basketball,) while the rest (the internet memes) just sorta happens.  Music is another important element of this.  Everyone knows Republicans make poor DJs, and Senator Obama has collected an impressive variety of musical endorsements.

Democrats always pwn music.  Even sad-sack John Kerry had future Senator Bruce Springsteen.  But, as the BBC’s Gavin Hewitt noted today, Springsteen, the Foo Fighters, and Bon Jovi were always the headliners; fans would literally come for the band and leave from the candidate.  Obama is the star, and his campaign has picked perfect music to augment his aura:

“Two songs, however, are used to define the campaign. One is the arrival anthem, that plays Barack Obama onto the stage. It is U2’s “City of Blinding Lights” – with its line “oh you look so beautiful tonight.”

It’s a stunning song, combining a real Phil Spector sound with a crowd-pleasing hook.  They also nailed it on Biden, bringing him out to Springsteen’s “The Rising.”  It may be a little too 9/11, but Springsteen acolyte (and legitimate Reverend) Jeffrey Symykywicz makes the case for why it works, and most importantly it just feels right.

Choosing campaign songs is not as easy as it looks.  Hillary’s people flubbed it with Celine freakin’ Dion, John Edwards’ schtick was Mellencampy, and poor McCain-Palin keeps getting sued.  So back to the other song Hewitt identified as central to the campaign:

“…after his speech, when he lifts the bottle of water to his lips, in comes the heavy beat and then Stevie Wonder’s scream in “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.”

It’s an awesome song from an all-time great American musician – it’s easy to forget that the man’s been on the charts since 1963.

In the key of Stevie, an African-American friend of mine said something worth closing with.  I had been talking about the cultural relevence of Bob Dylan to my family, the kind of people who raise their kids on Phil Ochs and Joan Baez, edited up a “liberation haggadah” for Passover, and distribute “Rise Up Singing” as a graduation gift.  We were driving somewhere discussing this when Stevie comes on his CD player.  My friend turns to me and goes: “What Bob Dylan means to your mother, that’s what Stevie Wonder means to black people.”

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The kids are doing recent first time voter TI proud.

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Everyone gets their quarter of an hour:

“Move over, Sanjaya, and tell William Hung the news: Joe the Plumber is being pursued for a major record deal and could come out with a country album as early as Inauguration Day.”

Politico reports that Joe/Sam the not-plumber/tax evader has signed with a Nashville PR firm for “a shift out of the plumbing trade into stage and studio performances.”  It’s a big outfit:

“The Press Office, a PR firm based in Nashville, Tenn., represents an eclectic array of other clients including country stars John Anderson and the Gatlin Brothers, quirky folk singer Leon Redbone, NASCAR driver Chase Mattioli and animal repellent firm Liquid Fence. The Bobby Roberts Company reps several of the same acts, in addition to Juice Newton, Merle Haggard and Jon Secada.”

I know Leon Redbone.  Leon Redbone is a friend of mine.  And you, sir, are no Leon Redbone.

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Slate’s technology writer Farhad Manjoo assembled some evidence supporting Senator Obama’s text message campaign.  According to Green and Gerber, (shameless book pitch,) text messages deliver the effectiveness of canvassing at low low prices!  Text messages, tailored to the recipient’s neighborhood and delivered in a casual “hello from Barack” style, give supporters friendly, personalized information about events, voting, and campaign volunteer opportunities.

But the text messages are just an example of an overall strategy to run a high-tech, well-messaged, forward-looking campaign.  Here’s the contrast:

CHESTER, Pa., Oct 28 (Reuters) – Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama launches an unprecedented television blitz on Wednesday to push his economic message on U.S. networks ranging from CBS and NBC to Comedy Central.

The response?

“His Republican rival John McCain plans to appear on CNN’s “Larry King Live.”

Larry freakin’ King is two years younger than McCain.  So while Obama is texting his supporters for house parties, the GOP is recruiting 40-year-old “Young Eagles.”  The Obama campaign has nailed the font and logo, delivering slickly-packaged style and substance through youth-friendly mediums.  A glance at the Obama buttons page reveals small variations on the ubiquitous logo tailored to independents, sportsmen, veterans, and Asian-Americans among others, as well as state-name logos.

Campaigns have been “selling candidates like soap flakes” forever, but it isn’t as easy at it looks.  The website typography.com described the McCain-Palin font as “down-market luxe,” comparing it to low-end aftershave:

DesignBay.com has a fascinating analysis of campaign logos, which is worth reading before you sign up to volunteer through MyBarackObama.com.  Because Barack Obama is your new bicycle.

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It takes a lot to upstage new Bond girl Olga Kurylenko.

A small Russian communist party has just done it.  Anyone who tops this by close-of-business Tuesday, I promise I will Paypal you $1:

“In the name of all communists we appeal to you, Olga Kurylenko, wanton daughter of unclean Ukraine and deserter of the Slavic world. The Soviet Union educated you, cared for you, and brought you up for free, but no one suspected that you would commit this act of intellectual and moral betrayal.”

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Stephen Colbert is legitimately running the GOP.  Witness:

“The next generation of the Republican Party. The Young Eagles provide the GOP with the financial resources to compete in national, state, and local elections, while affording members the opportunity to interact and network with Republican Party officials, pundits, enthusiasts, and donors as well as business leaders and innovators throughout the country.”

The Young Eagles, (Eaglets?), complete with silly logo:

But how does one join this elite cadre of Reagan revolutionaries?  Simple: Throw a shit-ton of money at a dying elephant:

“A Republican Young Eagles membership requires a $7,500 personal contribution per year or a joint membership of $3,750 per person per year.”

In case you aren’t prepared to ante your rent money for the cause, prospective Eaglets can get a taste of the organization at a reasonably-priced $1,500 per event.  If you can pony up $40,000 (!), it buys you attendance at “special events” and some Young Eagles Roundtable thing. (Nest?  Access to the Eagles’ Nest?  Maybe you get to watch Dick Morris eat regurgitated worms?)  Prep your passports, Eaglets, because these special events are held in such foreign locales as New York* and Los Angeles.

Where in the name of chicken-friend Jesus are young people supposed to find $40,000?  Perhaps it helps that “Young Eagles” membership is open to people up to 45 years old.  Sorry Senator Obama, you just missed it.  So the GOP youth auxiliary actually includes the tail end of the baby boomers.  An impressive effort to relate to those kids playin’ the hippity-hop on your lawn.

I swear, part of me really believes this is a parody.  Although to be fair on the stupid logo, I’ve always thought the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation

…looked disturbingly like the Carolina Hurricanes ice hockey team:

So I guess I should lay off the design people.

* New York becomes a part of America on days it is attacked by terrorists.  Offer void after 30 days.

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Today’s New York Times ran an excellent profile of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov.  The Ed-Koch-lookin Luzhkov was a founder of Putin’s ruling United Russia Party, and is extremely popular.  Re-elected with 69% and 75% in his last two elections, Luzhkov is first and foremost a builder, apartments, highways, memorials, you name it.  Matching his party, the man has authoritarian tendencies.

What makes him unique though is his powerful voice on foreign affairs.  Luzhkov has promised $100 million of Moscow city money for development projects in Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian city damaged in the recent conflict.  Luzhkov has visited the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia, pressing his own government to recognize the territory’s independance, as well as making provocative statements towards Ukraine.

It’s rare to see a mayor with such a strong foreign policy voice.  Rudy Giuliani liked to make high-profile gestures, and after 9/11 rejected $10 million of assistance from Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.  (Also parlayed it into an epic fail Presidential run.)  Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone injected himself into the politics of Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Israel, everyone, Venezuela again, and History.  Other than these two, it’s hard to think of any mayors around the world with significant independant opinions on foreign affairs.  On one hand it isn’t really their place; mayors are never elected on foreign policy.  That said, any mayor of a major city is going to handle issues with roots abroad, whether trade, energy, or immigration.  So I’d just leave you with this nugget from the great Marion Barry:

“I am making this trip to Africa because Washington is an international city, just like Tokyo, Nigeria or Israel. As mayor, I am an international symbol. Can you deny that to Africa?”

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