January 30, 2013 § Leave a comment
So this and the following week are finals weeks on our university. One of not so many privileges of fifth year students is that there are nearly no exams this year, so I am staying home, looking after parents-in-law-in-spe’s dog, and I decided to do something monumental in this extra spare time.
The first thing is working on my master’s thesis.
Another one is Ice.
This enormous retro science-fiction novel by Jacek Dukaj hasn’t been published in English yet, but I quite understand it. There are two reasons for that.
The first one is that it’s a novel about a Pole traveling East through steps of Russia to find and talk to his father, who is said to talk to the Frosts. Frosts are weather anomalies related to Ice mentioned in the title. They had appeared over Russia in 19th century and froze the History – Partitions of Poland had not ended, there was no Revolution. Ice froze not only animals, buildings or people in particular, but it froze the state of the world. The main point of reference is Poland and its complicated history, which changed considerably on the verge of 20th century, but not in the novel. It’s serves also as a metaphor of never-changing Russia frozen under Syberian snows.
Another reason is in the language. Dukaj got so immersed in adopting the style of 19th century novel, that he stretched Polish to the extent nearly causing a deadly break. I can’t imagine it translated to English. So much would be lost that it would question the point of translation.
Curious thing is that outside the window it’s around three degrees now, but only two days ago it was minus fifteen. If cold is what stops the history from turning, what’s going to happen now?
December 14, 2012 § Leave a comment
So, there is an emerging burlesque scene here in Poland after one of the stage artists, Betty Q, appeared in a polish edition of Got Talent. I started following burlesque pages on Facebook and subscribed to their blogs, trying to catch the spirit of all this telling-stories-through-stripping mess.
And then, suddenly, a friend asked me if I and my girlfriend would like to go see one of the shows. Sometimes reality reacts to your hidden intentions spontaneously, and this was only another proof to that theory that I adopted some time ago.
So we went to this club, it’s name translates to The Comedy Club, in the post-ghetto district of Warsaw. Previously it was a place of jazzmen, scene provided for alternative culture events, comic book premieres. After some turbulences with local communities owners had to close down and, after some time, another place started it’s own history. Curious if the locals are satisfied with place like this more than before.
In Poland there are students’ discounts on public transport, museums, we have free education covering all higher levels, you could call it a welfare state. But I did not expect students’ discounts on tickets for burlesque.
We sat on wobbly chairs in a more-than-cosy room. The role of a compere was taken by a guy dressed up as a Santa with silver teeth and punk hairstyle. He was partially a magician, prestidigitator I would say, and a comedian. He introduced the girls, told some jokes, swallowed a baloon and puked it as a one turned into a pony/dog.
A friend of mine, whose identity I will keep secret, has this saying: a piano competition is not for armless. The same as burlesque is not for shapeless girls. Although I understand the emancipational aspect – they perform and act as sexy women in front of other people discovering their own sex-appeal – it’s not exactly what I would like to watch, when I pay for it.
It’s not that they were fat, because they weren’t, especially when you take under consideration the fact that burlesque is not exactly for size 90-60-90. But they have to have some proportions!
And the show, the choreography – simple, based on hit songs played back, and the story – which is, as Betty Q said commenting her appearance in Got Talent, the most important part, not just tits – were… lousy.
And the thing that I hate the most, the trauma from my childhood. The moment when the performer looks for someone on the audience and asks him or her to join him for a trick. And the trick turns out to be abusive or sexist. And the person doesn’t want to disappoint the others. And does what he/she is told.
Maybe you should, girls, adapt to the modest enviroments you are to perform in before you reach places dripping with gold and diamonds and stop throwing candies in golden wrapers at the audience.
December 6, 2012 § Leave a comment
So, there are christmas sales here in Poland. And special christmas premieres – products aimed to be launched during a perfect period, when hype rises along with demand for items that are not bought very often. Like books.
And in one of the biggest bookstores in Warsaw, Poland, there is a special stand with the latest novel by J.K. Rowling – The Casual Vacancy. The sign suggests it’s “the best present”.
If you were going to read this book, I assure you it’s worth it. But don’t buy it to anyone for Christmas. Why, you’d ask.
Well, some people see nothing wrong in buying someone a book on eugenics as a present. Even I bought one for my girlfiend! But many people wouldn’t find it suitable to put under the christmas tree a book about:
- rape again,
- domestic violence (tough one),
- and so on.
This book really is for adults only. And it doesn’t go well with christmas atmosphere.
November 1, 2012 § 2 Comments
Polish Church warned the nation of wearing costumes and having fun on Halloween. This has not been the first time. Every year, when October is coming to it’s end, bishops warn us not to let paganism from the West in.
Due to the polish tradition on the first of November people go to the cementaries to put flowers and snitches to the graves. Some of them drive the whole country to another city where some of their ancestors were buried. Streets are crowded, traffic jams appear in the places they do never appear, and on the day after police runs a campaign against drunk drivers coming back from family meetings. It’s called „Action Snitch”.
This holiday is officially called „All Saints’ Day”, but most people call it „Day of the Dead”.
Halloween is perceived as something not only foreign, but evil and pagan, especially by the people who haven’t grown up fed with american popculture. They are not entirely wrong, I must note, because Halloween is actually pagan and foreign. Just like christmass tree on Christmass, a cross as a sign of Jesus and many other things.
But the main point of this hate against Halloween is the fact that it is a happy holiday.
Polish history hasn’t been much fun since at least XVIII century, when partitions started. After regaining freedom in 1918, the country was invaded by Hitler in 1939 and, after that, practically enslaved by USSR until 1989. The most important literary era for modern Poland is still Romantism with suffering poets, national martyrdom and antemurale-christianitatis-doctrine. Our relation to the past is not so positive and merry.
Traditional polish way of spending holidays is meeting with family in serious atmosphere. Who would think of putting a costume of a vampire on and scavenging candies on the streets?
Another thing is importing holidays. Poles do celebrate Valentine’s Day, not with complete understanding of the fact that it has been imported from the West, but some people contest it. Like polish nationalists, who poster the major cities with exhortation that we should come back to our traditional ways of celebrating man-woman love – Kupala Night. It’s also pagan, it is connected with summer solstice, but it is ours, they say.
But nobody can stop Halloween spreading in Poland. Younger generations look up to the West, they want happy holidays, not all those nation-in-suffering-centered ceremonies. They want to redefine this holiday, I think. And what can be wrong in the fact that the day before cemetery-crawling they go to a club to have some fun so that the day after they don’t have to talk about the dead but about the party they went last night?