Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Finally, a bit of European news you can use!

First, a moment of silence for my only regular media outlet: After struggling fortnight after fortnight to come up with something interesting to say about Europe, with a heavy heart that I must relay the news that regular publication of Slate's International Papers column has been put on ice. Yes, that means I'm out of a job, sorta. Though the decision was not officially linked to the Washington Post's recent purchase of Slate, it wouldn't be outlandish to infer some connection.

But speaking of exciting news, for once, in Europe -- we are pleased to encounter this snarky bit of European inter-blog rivalry: It's Pestiside vs. Carniola! Yes, in the final hours of Fistful of Euros' 1st European Weblog Awards, and with polls closing tomorrow, the hotly contested category of "Best Weblog Focused on a Single Country or Region" is still up for grabs, and the rhetoric is getting vicious on both sides of the -- on both sides of the whatever it is separates Hungary and Slovenia. (You gotta clue?)

Erik D'Amato's trashy Budapest city blog Pestiside, no doubt owing in part to incendiary ads calling on native Hungarians to "avenge five centuries of national humiliation in 3 easy clicks," is narrowly trailing the "vile Slovenes" fronted by Michael Manske's Slovenia-centric blog The Glory of Carniola.

My endorsement: Carniola in the category "Best Weblog Focused on a Single Country or Region," but Pestiside in the "Best New Weblog" category. For the outsider, Carniola is just more consistently engaging. Pesticide is a whole lotta insidery Budapest stuff. Now hold on -- lest any of you maurauding Pestiside partisans come after me with a pole-axe, allow me to point out that it was I who nominated Pestiside for the "Best New Weblog" to begin with. It's a new-ish concept for a blog, squeezing gossipy, tabloid content and commentary into a blog format, which is perfect for in-bred expat scenes like Budapest and Prague (and it's precisely why I've been on Prague TV's case to launch something similar) and it deserves recognition for that, even if half the time I haven't the slightest idea what Erik's going on about.

Of course there's also the pesky issue of Pestiside claiming on it's FAQ that it's not really a blog, which from the get-go reminded me of Jeff Goldblum's character's admonishing response, in the first Jurrasic Park, to somebody calling him a mathematician: "Chaotician." (Yeah, the reference is a bit too obscure to be meaningful, but it's the only thing I could think of, and you get my drift.) Sure, it's a souped up blog, but a blog nonetheless. It prompted me to suggest a new category to my AFOE co-horts: "Best Blog In A State Of Denial About Being A Blog."

Whatever your druthers, go vote -- out of almost 700 votes, it could still come down to a single click.

My endorsement aside, I must say I was a little taken aback by the peevish response of Carniola's fans, who were somehow offended by D'Amato's calling them "snaggle-toothed, accordion-playing hillbillies who inhabit, like so many she-goats, the alpine wastelands to the south of our beautiful country." These senstive types!

(Then the counter-punch: "Maybe he's just frustrated that Slovenia has so many pretty women and hungarian chicks turn ugly right when they turn 19 or is it 17? Lots of pretty girls, but no pretty women in Hungary." Hee hee!)

Problem is, I'm the kind of ignorant American who thinks insulting people's nationality is right up there with cops in doughnut shops in the "always funny" category. Why just the other day I was at the Prague hormone pit variously called Nebe or Iron Door, when I somehow got it into my head that it might be worth engaging in flirtatious drunken banter with two winsome Slavic lasses named -- I don't remember their names and they're not important, but one was from Sarajevo and the other from Bratislava. I chatted with the girl from Sarajevo about, naturally, Sarajevo, and to the Bratislava chick I asked the time-honored question: "Is it true that Slovaks are basically Czechs who believe in God?" She really didn't think that was funny at all. Her parting words as I left the bar were, "Goodbye, fucker!" Oops.

I know the teeming masses, which recently sent my traffic up to hit a whopping 94 average visits per day (what gives?!) are still squirming with anticipation over the story of my New Year's trip through the maritime provinces of Canadia and my August trip to Calabria. (That's the toe, Calabria.) I'll work on it this weekend. No, wait -- the weekend's already come and gone. Dammit.


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