Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Gera's Squad Robbed by Poor Officiating

Ok, I know this blog isn't for sports lovers, but I must say the fair inhabitants of Burnapest's home country, Hungary, were subjected to one of the most humiliating defeats since Trianon. The national football team, which had enjoyed a recent inspirational surge thanks to a younger team, were forced to accept yet another defeat, this time from a FIFA referee.

The team's captain, and perhaps the best player, Zoltan Gera, was thrown out of the game for being a human tackling dummy for Turkish Linebacker, I mean keeper, Hakan Arikan. Gera was deliberately tackled after he poked the ball to the aggressive keeper's left. The keeper took out Gera like he should have ,yet instead of the referee, Stuart Dougall, awarding the well deserved penalty kick, he decided to send Gera off for a dive (keep in mind that the Turkish player, Belozoglu Emre, dealt a concussion to Hungarian keeper, Marton Fulop, just minutes earlier with no call). Gera had already accumulated a yellow card in the match.

First of all how many players are sent off for diving? Italians, French and even Turks may be famous for this... but the Hungarians? It was one of the worst calls ever made, and nobody will ever care because it involves a team that has no chance, that nobody cares about, a country that was passed up to host the very European championship that they were trying to qualify for.

The real test begins now. With a youthful team of talent and passionate leadership, i.e. ex-alcoholic Zoltan Gera, there should be no excuse. It's not like the great thinkers, sportsmen and philosophers of our time ever let a little bit of adversity get to them. Carry on, and continue to improve Magyars!

By the way, as soon as the video is up on the Web, you'll see it here.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

It's Official, the Brown Shirts are Back

Unfortunately, the biggest news coming out of Hungary is dark, very dark. Bloomberg wrote this article about the swearing in of the Hungarian Guard, a militia that smacks of pre-World War II fascism.

While a majority of Hungarians are disgusted by the xenophobic ramblings of the far-right Jobbik party, there has been little in the way of public protest against it. The group has gathered a small yet vocal following by holding bullhorn rallies in public squares throughout the country. The main gripe: the country is being destroyed by "bloodsuckers" who feed on the country's socialist handouts. Who are these evil and malevolent bloodsuckers? The militia suggests Jews, homosexuals, immigrants and gypsies, to name a few. Sound familiar?

In reality, there are problems with Hungary's tax system. Many pay only a fraction of their obligation, which has strained the country's once great health care system. But to say these people are to blame, that these people take jobs away -- Hungary enjoys one of the lowest unemployment rates in the EU -- is just plain scary.

The only solution, organize a counter protest. It's a worthy cause and the Hungarians are capable of it -- Budapest staged one of the largest Critical Mass rides in the world. Austrians pulled together years ago when Jorg Heider brought back Nazi ideology, so too can Hungarians. It's time to stand together, Burnapest is with you.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Premature Burn

It's very possible that burning the man early is a cause for alarm. It's very possible that sticking a knife in the collective backs of tens of thousands of people is the very death knell that so many have sought after. It's possible that this man with face paint may be the anarchist that burns commercialism in this world of distraction and escapism.

What can we do except balance the darker aspects of Burning Man with open minds and love. That's philosophy the whole world can benefit from.

Every difference in opinion, every disputed discussion and almost all citizens of intelligence and consequence feel that burning desire every day. It's what I call Burnapest.

For more on the premature burn, check out this Laughing Squid article.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Moon Bright over Budapest

The moon over Burnapest is glowing with life tonight. It looks like that bright retina burn you get after staring at the sun and closing your eyes. The Petofi and Szabadsag bridges curl across your vision like glowing veins and if you squeeze tight enough you catch a glimpse of pure energy.

In just over 16 hours, somewhere in the Nevada desert, early arrivals at Burning Man will be watching the same moon with the exception that it will be completely obscured by the earth's shadow. Barring a dust storm, they're in for a rare morning.

For those of us surviving in a less hostile physical environment, albeit a harsh cultural clime, the only consolation is that the Burning Man site might crank up that web cam.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Alas, Hungary's largest gathering of musicians, artists and French hippies has come to an end. The Sziget Festival was eight days of muddy hedonism with some of the world's greatest rock bands showing up. The Killers, Madness, Nine Inch Nails, the Chemical Brothers and Manu Chao all played the main stage with at least 40,000 people corralled into the center of the festival.

Many of the smaller acts along the outer banks of Obudai Island in the middle of the Danube were enjoyable as well -- not to mention more accessible. Gogol Bordello and Mau Mau proved that in order to rock a side tent at any festival these days, you MUST incorporate an accordion player into the band.

Sziget becomes a temporary community as backpackers descend on Budapest in droves. There is shopping, great food, dance parties that never stop, and an international crowd that camps around the island. The festival also gives artists a chance to exhibit their interactive wares.

A New York-Hungarian collaboration called Flux Factory merged Budapest and New York in one trippy installation.

And near the medusa tent there was a plethora of soul-seeking and labyrinthine projects...

Sziget was such a massive event that you would think that would finally put an end to the festival season. Whew! It's finally over. Or is it?...

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Kert Craze

So I guess Burnapest's secret is getting out, although it may be leaking towards the east rather than west. Check out Shabby is the Chic Thing at Budapest's "Ruin Pubs" from Reuters India.

Garden bars in dilapidated old buildings are the city's coolest venues. Live entertainment is common and the crowd is young and fresh. In fact, the other day I saw TV crews at West Balkan filming mojito preparation. Sorry bartenders...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Speed Bump

Hungarians don't consider a bump in the road just an obstacle, they actually refer to a speed bump as a cop in the ground.

Fekvő rendőr means a lying policeman. It's how Hungarians say speed bump. It sounds a bit like, "Fuck you rendőr," the type of language that Burnapest does not condone in any way.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Transylvania Sans Dracula

Last week was hotter than csípős paprika, and Burnapest's throng flocked to water in all its forms. A lesser known spot to cool down is this trickling beauty called Phaeton Cascade. It's not technically in Hungary -- it lies about 100 kilometers past the Romanian border -- but with a quarter of the population speaking Hungarian, you might never know it.
The waterfall is named after the Greek myth of Phaeton, the son of Apollo who wished more than anything to drive the ornery chariot of fire. As a half mortal he failed and plunged into the icy waters below. The name is fitting because the cascade resembles an icy beam of light falling from an insurmountable height.

The waterfall was tough to get to. It involved a tough trek up a steep grade of loose gravel, but it was well worth it. The top of the waterfall is the source of a clean mountain spring and the cool shower at the base will wash the sweat right away.
If you're unable to find the waterfall, there's a lot more to see in the area if you have a car -- travel in Romania is next to impossible without one. The Magyars call the region Erdélyi, and I call the horseshoe shaped range at the base of the Carpathians just plain beautiful. Grab a topo for Padis and explore yourself (you sure as hell won't find it on Google maps).

The Bear's Caves are close and they're easy enough to find. The caves are famous for their striations and the fact that a bunch of cave bears were trapped inside when the cavern collapsed tens of thousands of years ago. Another waterfall, Szerenad in Hungarian, is nearby.

There are several of pensions and cabins in the area and an internet search will lead you there. For the more adventurous, however, the only accommodations worth noting are the ones in the quaint bedrooms of a local's home. Here's a picture of our hosts:
This is Teréz Lőrincz and her daughter. Teréz doesn't speak a lick of English or Romanian, but that won't stop her from telling you -- through a set of silver incisors -- the deep-seeded and tumultuous history of Hungarians in Transylvania. It's been a black eye for Hungary since the end of World War I when the Treaty of Trianon left the country a fraction of its former glory. Nowhere is it felt more than in these guarded walls in the Romanian countryside.

For a a real glimpse of Hungary 50 years ago, step into
Teréz's mother's room. Even though the woman died four years ago, her room and the adjoining "clean" room have been preserved better than the raspberry jam you get for lunch. Speaking of food, that's the real value of the weekend, which runs about 30 euros.

Breakfast: fried bacon fat, spicy lecso, homemade butter and cheese, fried eggplant and a nasty spirit steeped in herbs and onions.
Lunch: sandwiches and fruit, whew!
Dinner: green bean or cauliflower soup, fried veal, mashed potatoes, liver, onions, and, of course, lots of Palinka (this is the traditional Hungarian spirit. If you don't drink a little, you might get smacked with a stick by
Teréz's husband Péter).

If you speak a little Hungarian and you want to give it a try, here's the number: 04-0745-496994

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Perfect Party Phrase

The latest Burnapest expression comes from Balaton Sound, where there was lots of sunbathing, drinking and dancing. Of course, at times like this, when the Palinka is flowing and everybody cheers when "Groove is in the Heart" plays, things tend to get a little sloppy. That's when you say:

"Kész Vagyok..."

Literally, it means, "I'm ready." But when you should have been in bed an hour ago and your memory is fading, it really means, "I'm done."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Balaton Sound

The first Balaton Sound festival went off without too many problems. It's hard to beat such a mellow daytime feeling where music drifts in on a soft breeze while taking a dip in chilly Lake Balaton. There were the obligatory gripes about commercialism, but it must be difficult for the organizers to turn a profit on just the ticket sales.

There was an emphasis on soul and ethnic music on the festival's main stage.

The Beastie Boys unveiled their new instrumental album.

The Brand New Heavies played from their new album as well but found more success in playing the classics.And, the Basement Jaxx played a surprisingly diverse set with lots from the horn section and a new wardrobe from the female vocalists every two songs.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Get out of the way!

Friday is a great time to learn a new expression, so here we go! Have you ever been watching television, perhaps an intense basketball game or a movie with subtitles when someone ventures lackadaisically into your line of sight?

You might say, "You make a better door than a window," to the obstacle in question. Well, the Hungarians have a similar saying:

"Apad nem volt üveges!"

It means, literally, your father was not a glass maker. It seems to get the same point across.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Balaton Boogie Time

The first ever Balaton Sound begins tonight and goes on through the weekend. The music festivus is the second major alternative music gathering in Hungary this summer. Last week, Prodigy and the Roots rocked the Volt Festival. Check out Swedish band Koop from the Sopron shindig.

Balaton Sound should be interesting because it takes place on the southern bank of Europe's largest body of fresh water, Lake Balaton. Three "Bs" of master mixing will all be there: Beastie Boys, Brand New Heavies and Basement Jaxx.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sex Sells, but at What Cost?

Just below trendy Deák Ferenc square in Budapest lies a modest installation with a lofty goal: to wipe sexist ads from billboards and kiosks throughout Central and Eastern Europe. The Ads and Gender Project asserts that this one step would change the way women are often treated like sex objects.

Check out the Hungarian website Tű for some better examples. It may sound prudish, but many ads are shockingly sexist. That's what the advertisers want, of course, for the consumer to be shocked and aroused. But here's the rub: the European Union has set standards for woman's equality, and Hungary isn't exactly known for stamping out chauvinism. The EU, however, doesn't exactly practice what it preaches. Check out this promo for European film.

This free exhibit steers the boat in the right direction. By speaking through pictures instead of lectures -- which of course are also offered as part of the program -- the viewer understands the dichotomy of real life and consumerism. These artists don't demand change, they ask for it nicely. They don't trample free-speech rights, they suggest advertisers police themselves and find more creative ways to sell their product beyond pasting a 10-meter-tall ass on the side of the street.

Whether or not that's the most effective form of feminism remains to be seen. It would be foolish to adopt another form of feminism when Hungary, along with Poland and the Czech Republic, is such a unique country that has seen so much change in the last 20 years. Many hold violently to "traditional" values and though the woman's movement is about 100 years old here, it's never made much of an impact on fundamentalists. Shocko, shocko...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

White Pride Meets Gay Pride in Budapest

Burnapest officially launches with a recap of last weekend's clash between the spandex-clad supporters of gay pride and the fuzzy-scalped guardians of "traditional Hungarian values."

Budapest's Pride Parade coincided with the city's 12th annual LGBT film and culture festival, and there was even a high-ranking government official, Gabor Szetey, there to come out of the closet. The parade was relatively modest; an MTI story estimated 2,000 people marched. There were a couple of floats blasting Euro house, some rainbow flags and a large contingent of conservatively dressed supporters meandering down Budapest's main avenues.

Of course, at least 20 police cars, several police wagons, a mobile command center, and countless foot patrols followed. Unfortunately, Budapest's finest, though prepared for the worst, failed to stop a reported barrage of eggs, bottles and sandbags from injuring at least eight merry marchers.

The attackers consisted of the usual suspects: skinheads, fascists and toothless old hags. What was most disturbing, however, was the reaction of onlookers who just happened to be having a coffee on the sidewalk.

One man remarked, "How can they do this when the country is facing so many problems already." He added that Hungary was a Christian country and there was already enough corruption, greed and criminality to repent for. The last thing the country needed, he continued, was to add unbridled sodomy to the list.

The guy probably didn't want to hear that Jesus would most likely side with Sodomites than sloped-brow pipe-wielding protesters near Baross Utca.

To the credit of State Secretary of Justice and Law Enforcement Ferenc Kondorosi, the police did come out in force and they are now committed to finding and calling to account all those who committed a crime.

I'm sure the department's most senior inspectors are out combing neighborhoods right now, knocking on the doors of known rabble rousers and impounding rotten eggs by the dozen. Good luck. I guess changing the attitudes of a "Christian" nation may take more than a billy club and a badge.