“Cool Guy” Nick Hornby in Vienna

26 11 2007

Slideshow: Some impressions from the Gala for Nick Hornby at the Rathaus in Vienna, November 2007. Copyright: Matthias Wurz

“We are proud to devote the City Hall to literature,” declared Councilor for Cultural Affairs, Andreas Mailath-Pokorny to packed audience at the Buchwoche (Book Week) on Nov. 18, 2007. Nick Hornby, the author of Fever Pitch (1992) – his first novel landed him a huge success – was celebrated like a pop star in Vienna.

The selection of this year’s title for Eine Stadt. Ein Buch, therefore, was a calculated marketing event by Mayor Michael Häupl and the publisher Echo, as it tells the author’s life story from the perspective of – in Hornby’s words –“significant football events.”

In 2008, Vienna co-hosts the European Football Championship EURO 2008, and therefore it was no surprise to find Hornby’s book distributed this year. 100,000 copies were given away for free to Viennese readers. Previous writers included Toni Morrison, Frederic Morton and Imre Kertesz.

N.B.: For recent scenes of Vienna during the EURO 2008, see my other entries here in this blog!

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EUR 30,000 Pay-off for leaving Austria voluntarily

17 11 2007

Video (excerpt): “I don’t want to blackmail the authorities or the police, but I was serious about suicide. If I have to return (to Kosovo, sic) then I rather take my life, because there I have no future”, said 15-year-old Arigona Zogaj in a hugely emotional estate.

The video, which was received by the ORF in early October 2007, put Austria’s xenophobic Asylum Policies under the aegis of Interior Minister Günther Platter of the FPÖ – I am sorry, ÖVP, an unintentional slip-of-the-tongue – international spotlight. A family that came to Austria in 2001 from Kosovo, who was considered as fully integrated into the community of Frankenburg, near Vöcklamarkt in Oberösterreich, was ripped apart in front of the amazed Austrian public.

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A Politician’s Income on Public Display

13 11 2007

Photo: Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer (left) and Vice Chancellor Wilhelm Molterer at a press conference on October 31, 2007.

On Nov. 10, the debate seemed over. As indicated in my recent blog entry ‘Cash Off as Usual‘, I reported on the unwillingness of either of the large parties, SPÖ or ÖVP to change procedures for a glimpse of transparency, rejecting calls of Austrian MPs to declare their additional sources of income (Nebeneinkünfte) and other political and economic affiliations in the internet. However, in a dramatic U-turn, the Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer (Socialdemocrats) declared in a public appeal on Nov. 12 that Socialdemocratic MPs have nothing to hide and would be required to publish their additional sources of income. This is, of course, a voluntary nevertheless welcoming step by Austria’s largest party in a growing polarized public debate. Read the rest of this entry »

Cash Off as Usual – Austrian Parliamentarians Hide Additional Earnings Still

11 11 2007

Photo: For President of the Austrian Parliament, Barbara Prammer, catching a chicken seems evidently easier than having her colleagues agree to publish their additional sources of income.

This time, the debate – or better non-debate – was short-lived: On Oct. 29, 2007, First President of the Austrian Parliament, Barbara Prammer (Socialdemocrats), presented her ideas of improving the parliamentary debates and reforming internal procedures. Among the suggestions voiced was the mandatory registration and publication of MPs additional sources of income (German: Nebeneinkünfte) and make them accessible to the general public via Internet. Prammer referenced the German model, where Members of the German Bundestag have to publish a detailed account in their biographies on the website of the parliament.

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Iraq 2007: Kangaroos, not Mozartkugeln….

4 11 2007

Photo: Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard (left) and President George W. Bush (right) at the APEC Meeting in Sydney, September 2007.

It was Sep. 7, 2007, Sydney, Australia: Everything is prepared for the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit, and on the eve before the meeting of the head of states, the APEC Business Summit took place in Sydney Opera House. Special guest for that event, chaired by the incumbent Australian Prime Minister John Howard (in office since 1996), was George W. Bush. What should have been a backing for John Howard and rallying support against an impending defeat in the general elections of Nov. 24, 2007, turned out to be an absolute Public Relations disaster, with the U.S. President’s notorious slip of the tongues, causing laughter and amazement among not only the listeners, but also the international press. The war in Iraq, and the Australian involvement proved more unpopular than ever in the country, thanks to George W. Bush. Neat less to say, Howard lost the general elections, and since then the Labour opposition, led by Kevin Rudd, has taken office since. Read the rest of this entry »