September 2009

Marisa Berenson – The forgotten 70s icon

by Limbic on September 29, 2009

This was one of the iconic photos of the seventies. Marisa Berenson was at the time one of the highest paid models in the world.

Here lifestyle epitomised seventies glamour. Yves Saint Laurent dubbed her “the girl of the Seventies”.

She even had a time cover…


From Wikipedia:

Marisa Berenson is the elder daughter of Robert L. Berenson, an American diplomat turned shipping executive, who was of Lithuanian Jewish descent; his family’s original surname was Valvrojenski.Her mother was born Countess Maria Luisa Yvonne Radha de Wendt de Kerlor, better known as Gogo Schiaparelli, a socialite of Italian, Swiss, French, and Egyptian ancestry.

Berenson’s maternal grandmother was the fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli,and her maternal grandfather was Count Wilhelm de Wendt de Kerlor, a Theosophist and psychic medium.Her younger sister, Berinthia, became the model, actress, and photographer Berry Berenson. She also is a great-grand-niece of Giovanni Schiaparelli, an Italian astronomer who believed he had discovered the supposed canals of Mars, a great-grand-niece of art expert Bernard Berenson (1865 – 1959), and his sister Senda Berenson (1868 – 1954), an athlete and educator who was one of the first two women elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame.

She was educated in England at Heathfield St Mary’s School.

…A fashion model who came to prominence in the early 1960s — “I once was one of the highest paid models in the world”, she told The New York Times — Berenson appeared on the cover of the July 1970 issue of Vogue as well as the cover of Time on 15 December 1975. She was known as “The Queen of the Scene” for her frequent appearances at nightclubs and other social venues in her youth, and Yves Saint Laurent dubbed her “the girl of the Seventies”.

Eventually she was cast in several prominent film roles, including Gustav von Aschenbach’s wife in Luchino Visconti‘s 1971 film Death in Venice, the Jewish department store heiress Natalia Landauer in the 1972 film Cabaret, for which she received some acclaim, (including two Golden Globe nominations, a BAFTA nomination and an award from the National Board of Review) and the tragic beauty Lady Lyndon in the Stanley Kubrick film Barry Lyndon (1975). Though the last role has been her most well known, few reviews have commented on her performance; Vincent Canby of The New York Times merely stated, “Marisa Berenson splendidly suits her costumes and wigs.”

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French fan murdered by hooligan lynch mob

by Limbic on September 29, 2009

Brice was a Toulouse supporter who came here out of love for his team. I hope he is remembered by them.

Brice Taton, the 28 year old French football supported attacked by football hooligans on September 17, has died from his injuries.

On behalf of the Belgrade Foreign Visitors Club I would like to extend our sincerest condolences to his friends and family.

The lynch mob that killed him are now murderers. They will face murder charges now, and almost certainly life in prison. Their lives are destroyed too. For nothing.

I hope there is an outpouring of popular outrage here  in Serbia. I really want to see ordinary Serbs stand up and make their voices heard on this.

In other cities, if a tourist is killed, there are protests. Officials apologize, church services are held for the family and flowers placed at the scene of the crime.

In Copenhagen a few years ago an Italian was killed accidentally by a street gang. Half the city took to the streets in a protest at the killing.

That is what we need to see here.

Serbia cannot allow passivity to win on this. There needs to be action and open denunciation by the masses.

The people who did this are a tiny part of a much larger group of thugs and extremists causing mayhem in Serbia today. They need to be repudiated by their fellow citizens. They need to see that this sort of thuggery and violence is unacceptable in a decent society and ordinary people will not stand for it.

Today, once again, the words “Serb” and “Serbia” will synonymous with “violence”, “savagery” and “brutality” as this makes headlines across the world. What sickens me is that this is so desperately unfair. The people of this country are more welcoming, hospitable and friendly that one could hope to meet anywhere in the world. This city is one of the safest places in the world. This an abomination, an inversion of the spirit of Belgrade, it is the city’s vicious alter ego.

So let’s see it Serbia. Let us see your anger and rebellion against the thugs and extremists who murder and beat your guests on your streets. Is this the sort of thing you are going to tolerate? If the answer is NO, then please come and join the protest walk on Thursday 1st of October 5pm, From Plato to the Victor monument in Kalemegdan.


Serbian gang behind Swedish helicopter heist

by Limbic on September 28, 2009

Swedes were recently outraged by a brazen criminal heist involving a helicopter and bombs. In a bitter piece called “SWEDEN – THESE THINGS JUST DON’T HAPPEN, EXCEPT FOR WHEN THEY DO“, Ivar Berglin wrote”

Not to draw any parallels between rape and some government-insured-investment-banker-money but this morning, us lovely schmovely Swedes woke up to yet another event that simply “does not happen in good ol’ Svedala.” Using a helicopter, a bunch of thieves landed on the roof of a Stockholm money transit terminal. Witnesses say a bunch of bombs went off and the police arrived shortly after but didn’t really dare to do anything. Instead they waited outside and calmly watched two guys load the chopper. Someone had put a bag marked with the word “BOMB” at the police helicopter central, so it was obviously out of the question to pursue the criminals by air. At the time being, there’s still no trace of the thieves and all of Sweden is holding their breaths to see how this Hollywood style robbery will end. Probably with a bunch of really rich tattooed guys swimming in champagne somewhere sunny. Still, I bet that as soon as the Swedes turn off their tellies tonight, they’ll go back to believing that Sweden is the safest country in the world, whilst every thieving bastard on planet earth will be even more convinced that good ol’ Svedala is to crime what Monaco is to tax fraud. – Source

Now it turns out that the raid was carried out by a Serbian gang made up of former paramilitaries:

BELGRADE, Serbia — Former Serb paramilitaries took part in last week’s brazen helicopter raid of a cash depot in Stockholm, Serbian police officials said Monday.

Former members of the “Red Berets” paramilitary unit who fought wars in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s took part in the heist, along with Swedish robbers, said Interior Minister Ivica Dacic, who heads Serbia’s police.

Serbian police “handed certain information about a criminal group which was preparing a robbery” in Stockholm to the Swedish embassy in Belgrade a month ago, but Swedish authorities did not react or contact Belgrade after that, said Milorad Veljovic, a senior Serbian police official.

Masked gunmen used a helicopter in the Hollywood-style heist last Wednesday. They broke through a roof window and setting off explosions inside the building before taking off with an undisclosed amount of cash.

A Swedish court said Monday that six men from the Stockholm area, aged 21 to 36, have been arrested on suspicion of robbery or assisting a robbery. Police spokesman Varg Gyllander said some of the men have criminal records but declined to give further comments. Police didn’t name the suspects in line with Swedish privacy rules. – Associated Press

This is just another example of the cross-over between paramilitary militias and organized crime revealed so well by Misha Glenny here and here.


Rave Review for Change By Design

by Limbic on September 28, 2009

Bob Sutton notes a rave review of EDEO CEO Tim Brown’s new book “Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation“. Bob writes:

The review, called “Redefining a Profession,” concludes that Tim has successfully avoided one of the biggest risks in a book like this one – coming across as too much of a commercial for the firm he leads.  Tim accomplishes this by simply being himself, and indeed, when I read the galleys, that was my comment…”This is 100% Tim Brow.,”  In any conversation you have with Tim, he will do things that many CEOs do not, he will give others lots of credit, he will tell wonderful stories, talk honestly about what works and what doesn’t, and about the limits of the methods used by his company, not just the strengths.  Indeed, for me, as much as I am a big believer in the power of design thinking, after hanging around the Stanford d school for five years or so, although I believe we teach our students well, I am often disturbed because “design thinking” is treated as the answer to every problem and also as more like a religion than a set of practices for sparking creativity.  Tim and his many colleagues at IDEO have had the courage to apply design thinking to almost any problem – from designing better websites, to changing how programmers work together, designing a couple thousand products, revamping operations, and changing customers experiences.   In doing so they have simultaneously pushed the limits of design thinking beyond what others thought possible (hence the title “Redefining a  Profession”) while always acknowledging the limits of the approach.

via Rave Review for Change By Design in New York Times.

The New York Times article is “Redefining a Profession


If you’re from Hollywood, rape who you like

by Limbic on September 28, 2009

Global Dashboard slaps the Polanski apologists hard in a brilliant post:

It amazes me how dramatically the left loses its moral compass whenever controversy surrounds someone artistic ‘genius’ they want to suck up to. Take Joan Z  Shore, of Women Overseas for Equality, who has used the Huffington Post to issue a fatwa against Switzerland for arresting Roman Polanski.

…Faced by this blame-the-victim bilge, it’s worth reading the original Grand Jury testimony in the case. Here’s a brief extract:

Q: What happened then?

A: […] he said, “Oh, I won’t come inside of you then.” And I just went – and he goes – and then he put me – wait. Then he lifted my legs farther and he went in through my anus.

Q: When you say he went in your anus, what do you mean by that?

A: He put his penis in my butt.

Q: Did he say anything at that time?

A: No.

Q: Did you resist at that time?

A: A little bit, but not really because… (pause)

Q: Because what?

A: Because I was afraid of him.

Polanski was 44 at the time. His defence: the acts were consensual (thus his guilty plea to unlawful sex with a minor). Ms Shore isn’t alone in finding that convincing. The BBC quotes a parade of moral retards who think consent makes it OK for him to have buggered a girl 30 years his junior, a girl who says she was drugged into compliance.

Maybe, maybe, Polanski should have been left to rot in France, especially as Samantha Geimer, his now grown-up victim, is desperate not to have to have her life turned upside down again (or face the scorn of faux feminists like Ms Shore).

But please – go and read the 36 pages of her testimony before you ask me to feel sorry for this paedophile and pervert.

via If you’re from Hollywood – rape who you like.


Why attacks on foreigners?

by Limbic on September 27, 2009

Foreigners in Belgrade are not about to be herded into ghettos for our own protection like aliens in District 9. But why is there an outbreak of violent street attacks against foreigners?

Foreigners in Belgrade are not about to be herded into ghettos for our own protection like aliens in District 9. But why is there an outbreak of violent street attacks against foreigners?

From B92:

“A Libyan citizen was assaulted and beaten in Belgrade on Friday night, according to the Interior Ministry. The man was attacked without provocation or reason by a group of young men, according to police. The attack occurred around 23:00 CET on Friday night, and the Libyan citizen, who is a student in Belgrade, suffered injures to the body and head.

… Police believe that there were three attackers. The victim was supposed to meet up with friends, who are Serbian citizens, by the bus station near the Metropol Hotel, according to daily Večernje Novosti. A group of hooligans cut him off on the street and began beating him. They hit him with their hands and legs and then one attacker took a metal bar and hit him in the head. Friday night’s incident is the fourth attack on a foreign citizen in Belgrade over the last 12 days.” – Violence continues as Libyan citizen is assaulted

This is the first publicised attack since the Gay Parade was cancelled last Friday. Some thought that we would return to normality after the parade incident had passed.

Instead we are seeing hooligans continue their attacks, possibly emboldened by what they see as a victory against the government and liberals.

According to Obraz, 1389 and other similar organisations, foreigners are one of the root causes of Serbia’s problems.

The great irony is that whilst there are foreigner enemies of Serbia, they are not IN Serbia.

The Serb haters and anti-Serb campaigners are not based here. They are posting their attacks on Serbia on the internet, from the overseas. They are almost all members of the Yugoslav diaspora. They have never even set foot in their own homelands, not to mention Serbia.

The foreigners you find on the streets of Belgrade are almost by definition friends of Serbia. They are the ones who have come here for love or business or because they like the place.

Beating up foreigners is an own goal for the thugs. They are attacking the one groups of non-Serbs who love this country and its people most.

It is not only criminal and vile, but incredibly stupid. It is also puzzling.

When one asks the question “Qui bono” – who benefits? – the answer appears to be Serb haters and foreigner enemies of Serbia.

Take a look at the comments on B92 or forums across the internet. Anti-Serb forces are delighting in these attacks. They are damaging the reputation of Serbs and Serbia – and at a critical time – just before the UN hearing on Kosovo and the final approval of Visa liberalisation.

If this is politically motivated and there are organised forces behind the attacks (as opposed to mindless criminality) then the effects map against different interest.

The attacks are actually anti-Serb in that they harm Serbia’s reputation and therefore Serbian business, tourism and global standing. This makes the attacks by definition anti-patriotic and in a sense, the attackers are traitors (assuming they are Serbs). People who hate Serbia are benefiting from these attacks and their delight in the attacks shows it. Negative publicity for Serbia might have a negative effect on its upcoming case before the UN over Kosovo. So one set of beneficiaries is Kosovo Albanians nationalists and/or the broad coalition of anti-Serb people and organisations that are the Croat/Bosnian/Albanian versions of the Radical Party (or at the extremes, Obraz and 1389). In short, foreign Serb haters.

I do not think, however, that the attacks are orchestrated by Kosovo Albanian or Croatian Nationalists, even though they are openly delighted by them and stand to benefit from them (any minus for Serbia is a plus for them). There is no evidence of this at all and it is so unlikely as to border on paranoia even to suggest it.

So what, or who,  is the real target?

If there is a “target”, I believe it is either Visa liberalisation or the current government.

Attacks on foreigners may cause the EU to rethink Serbia’s visa liberalisation, or put it on hold.  This would be a boon to certain far right parties who want to keep the people of Serbia – especially the young and unemployed – trapped within, unable to travel to Europe.

The single biggest threat to their political power is the young of Serbia travelling in Europe and being “corrupted” by liberalism. The absurd and unfair visa regime imposed on Serbs for there last two decades has served the interests of extremists and this might be their attempt to prolong the entrapment of the people, and maintain their power.

Another possibility is that this is a security challenge to the government. If the government cannot protect minorities like gays and foreigners – its legitimacy will be corroded. The extremists faced them down over the gay parade and may now be using the initiative to further peg back the government by hitting a  weak spot: foreigners. If a perception develops that Belgrade is another Moscow – that foreigners are not safe on the streets – then it will do serious damage to the country economically and socially. The government knows this and will be frantic to stop this happening. This may give whoever is behind these attacks bargaining power with the government.

This is, of course, speculation. I do not know who or what is behind the violence. I am not even sure that this violence is anything more than noise – random events that we are reading a pattern into.

There have been a series of violent incidents. They may be politically motivated. They may signal a trend. And they may cause serious damage to Serbia if they are not curbed.

We are a long way from that right now. But the security services need to get to the bottom of whatever is happening. If there are shadowy forces orchestrating this for misguided political reasons, they need to be stopped. If this is mere mindless hooliganism, then the people of Serbia need to make a stand against this. They need to express the outrage and anger I hear personally every day. It would be interesting to see if the government protect a parade in support of foreigners in Serbia?

Finally, we need to maintain a sense of perspective. Four attacks in two weeks is still fewer attacks than one would normally see in a city this size. One of the “attacks” – the shooting – was an accident, and the other directly related to hooliganism. This leaves two apparently xenophobic attacks and one of those was directly related to the gay parade.

So lets not panic, but lets not be complacent either. In the meantime please continue to enjoy our favourite city for the wonderful place it is and trust our Serbian friends, lovers, colleagues and spouses to see us all through this situation.


Cringy 80s dating videos

by Limbic on September 25, 2009

Meet characters like Stephen the “body designer”, the man who is “interested in most phases of data processing”,  Fred the Viking, Morris who does not mind getting sand on his tuxedo, a “refined valley dude”, and many many more….

Just remember folks. In a few years hence, this sort of montage will be made out your cringey Facebook updates and photos.


Are foreigners now afraid in Belgrade?

by Limbic on September 22, 2009

Due to a spate of recent attacks on foreigners and the brouhaha surrounding the cancellation of the gay pride parade, the Serbian media is now wondering if foreigners feel threatened and if there ought to be afraid.

I don’t think that we foreigners feel threatened at all and I dont think we need to be, at least not based on a few incidents.

One is vastly more likely to come to harm as a tourist in London, Paris or even Dublin than Belgrade. Tourists and locals alike are mugged and beaten up daily in those cities, where street crime is at epidemic levels.

Here in Belgrade the 20,000 foreigners who live in the city do so with a sense of genuine safety and security. This is a VERY safe city and I doubt the people of Belgrade will allow that to change.

I can also see that the authorities are taking this extremely seriously, and there is a huge crackdown on the groups at the root of the recent violence.

I am hoping in a month we will have seen the end of this issue.


Dire week for Belgrade’s reputation

by Limbic on September 21, 2009

Obraz clerico-fascist symbol defaced

Obraz clerico-fascist symbol defaced

This last week really has been terrible for Belgrade in terms of its reputation internationally and amongst its foreign residents.

On Wednesday 16th we had a British tourist shot and wounded outside Freestyler.

The following night, a mob of hooligans attacked a bar full of French fans and brutally beat one of them – Brice Taton – nearly to death. Other fans and the Serbian barman were also injured in the attack.

On Saturday the Belgrade Gay Pride March was cancelled after the government capitulated to threats of violence from extremist groups.

On Sunday the 20th an Australian tourist – James Brown – was attacked by two men in Kalemegdan.They were probably the same extremists who had beaten the government into submission with mere threats, mopping up perceived homosexuals from “their” city.

[Update 22 Sep 2009: It appears these were just the ones that made it t the papaers. There were a spate of attacks on foreigners in the run up to the parade]

The one indisputable positive thing we could claim about Belgrade was that it was a safe, friendly city for foreigners.

That reputation has taken a near fatal blow in one week and the it is the same tiny band of thugs and extremists that are responsible for it all.

Let’s not panic though. Its is not nearly as bad as it looks (although its pretty bad).

The shooting seems to have been a genuine freak “accident” in that the British tourist was not targeted for attack, but rather hit by a stray bullet from a firefight between mobsters and “security” (aka other mobsters).

The attack on the French fans was no doubt related to the heightened aggression of the extremist element in the run-up to the Gay Pride Parade, but it is still essentially football hooliganism and not an attack on them because they were foreigners per se. Meanwhile the authorities have arrested 11 of the estimated 30 hooligans who took part in the attack. They are facing up to 30 years in prison for their crime – which has correctly been determined as attempted murder.

I suspect that James Brown, the Australian who was attacked,  was targeted by extremists who were cruising around looking for gays to beat up even though the parade had been cancelled.  I am not suggesting that Mr Brown is gay, only that the extremists had been primed for a fight for weeks and then it was called off. The next best thing was a foreigner.

[Update 21st Sep: Just saw that Belgrade 2.0 reached a similar conclusion]

The real sickener of the last week was the cancelling of the Gay Pride Parade.

This was a disaster at so many levels it is hard to decide where to start.  This outcome – a last minute capitulation – was the worst possible outcome, worse than not allowing it in the first place. And there will be consequences. Potentially big ones.

The government threw down the glove at the reactionary forces of the country (the clerico-fascists/ultra-nationalist/extremists/right-wingers etc) . It made a stand. The parade would go ahead and the full weight of the state security apparatus would protect the parade participant’s democratic right to march.

The extremists were furious. This was a direct provocation.

The Serbian Orthodox Church branded the parade Sodom and Gomorrah (reference to the Old testament cities destroyed by god for beings sinful). Obraz and other fascist groups plastered up posters saying “We are waiting for you”, a promise to attack the parade. Anti-gay and anti-parade defacements bloomed like carcinomas on building throughout the city.

The government and police were swift to denounce the extremists. Politicians from the president down all lined up to confirm the parade would be protected, and that they would not back-down from thuggery and intimidation. Workers were dispatched to paint over the hate graffiti. The parade organizers were assured that the state would uphold its responsibilities. It would not surrender to threats of violence and intimidation. It was going to make a stand on behalf of democracy and rule of law against fascism, bigotry and violence.

Then, the day before the parade, in a staggering about turn, the government abjured its responsibilities to protect its citizens and declared that it “could not” guarantee the safety of the parade. They ordered the organizers to cancel the event.

The extremists are delighted by their unexpected victory snatched from the jaws of humiliated defeat. They were on the verge of being defied and impotent to stop a gay parade in their home town. They knew they could not take on the massive police presence set to guard the parade. Their threats and warning had failed.

The game was over. Their bluff had been called. They had lost….

And then the government gifts them a dramatic victory! They did not even have to show up. No need to throw a rock, suffer a cracked skull or inhale teargas – their mere threats worked.

The government – for all its tough talk – turned out to be bigger cowards than the extremists. The government chose to go belly up the day before the march.

Instead of this being a crushing victory for progressive forces, we have Belgrade and Serbia suffering another massive self-inflicted wound. The whole world shaking its head in a sort of pitying shame for us.

I think its time to ban groups that flout the law. Its time for secular authorities to boot the church out of secular affairs and it is time that we were actually given a chance to stand up to fascists and thugs.

I absolutely think the threats were real. I am certain that Obraz had every intention of inflicting harm and death on the marchers. I also think they are a tiny group and even swelled by the ranks of hooligans, could have been contained and neutralised. What’s more it was the duty of state to do so. The government of Serbia openly promised to defend a democratic legal parade, and then de facto shut it down the day before because of illegal threats they had known about since its inception!

This was a failure of WILL not of MEANS. The hooligans managed to cow the full security apparatus of the state – to stare it down – without a single one of their thug footsoldiers having to do a thing except scrawl threats. This will embolden them and we foreigners and other outsiders (like gays) may very well bear the brunt of the consequences.

[Update 22 Sep 2009: I was dead wrong about the level of threat from the extremists. They were very well prepared to take on the police and attack the parade. It appears that the Intelligence Services (BIA) uncovered the scale and sophistication of extremists preparations and the government had no same choice but to cancel the parade where it was due to take place.]

Despite this setback, Belgrade remains and extremely safe, welcoming foreigner friendly place.

The overwhelming majority of Serbian people are nothing less than superb in their kindness and accommodation of we strangers in their city.

The decent people of Belgrade are both sickened and saddened by these recent events. They do not and never have represented the people or the city.

In many ways the last week is a microcosm of  Serbia’s recent history. A weak or collusive state does nothing whilst the worst of Serbian society wreaks havoc in the name of “ordinary Serbs”. The world looks on and titters: “Those savage Serbs, nothing has changed….”

But things HAVE changed. Massively. And the parade is a squandered opportunity to show it.

And there are some very positive signs that the government may be trying to claw back the initiative:

MoJ calls for ban on extremist groups

The Justice Ministry will work towards the disbandment and outlawing of all groups that propagate violence, says the ministry’s State Secretary Slobodan Homen.

37 right-wingers remanded in custody

Belgrade police have arrested 37 ultra-right wingers, filing criminal charges against five and charging the remaining 32 with public order offenses.

That last report should ell you something. That is the fascist hard-core. 37 people. This is the terror that paralysed a 21st century European state.

Thirty       seven         people.

[Update 22 Sep 2009: It look now like it was more like 3700 hard core extremists most likely supported by “ordinary citizens”. I think what is most terrifying is the scale and organisation of the extremists and the real threat that ordinary citizens may have joined in against the parade.]


Misha Glenny on Global Organised Crime

by Limbic on September 17, 2009

This video is really a summary of his brilliant book “McMafia“, which is required reading for anyone interested in geopoltics, but should be read in conjunction with Moises Naim’s “Illicit”.

You may also enjoy this interview with Glenny I blogged about before – “The Eastern European Megamafia and Serbia“.

This video was sent to me on the day it was reported that the Italian Mafia may have sunk dozens of ships laden with radioactive cargo as part of a hazardous waste disposal racket.

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