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Sunday, 23 December 2012

ABOUT EVE ON CHRISTMAS EVE…


The word ‘eve’ in English indicates two things alike: the name of first woman in the world and the vigil of some important day. In Poland both these meanings meet on 24th December, as it’s Christmas Eve rich in traditions (f. ex. non-meat dinner consisting of 12 dishes and ‘shepherds’ mass service at midnight), among them also ‘name day’ of all people’s parents, Adam and Eve.



This custom of celebrating ‘name day’ as particular saint patron’s feast day comes from Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox calendars of saints. ‘Saint’ is the key word here but Adam with Eve aren’t saints! Hardly could they be, considering their disobedience to God’s injunction... He forbade them to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil but our furthest ancestors broke the Creator’s command and as a result were expelled from the paradisiac Garden of Eden...

There were other consequences of ‘the first fall’ too: Adam, Eve and all their descendants became mortal, born in original sin, in need of baptism to erase it, guilty of actual trespasses, hardworking to stay alive. Moreover the entire natural world was corrupted as animals divided into prey or predators with all the effects of pain and death... What a crude punisment for eating one small apple!

When I heard this story as a child I felt fury: how could the first human couple be so careless and reckless? Then I read for numerous times it was only Eve’s guilt and that’s why all women should be duteous and obedient to men – as it has been (and still is) in patriarchal societies. That made me even more furious, cause in my opinion if Adam hadn’t wanted the prohibited fruit, he wouldn’t have taken it and males shifting whole responsibility to females on that basis are simply immature. Until now this narration from Book of Genesis constantly gives me food for thoughts.

Today I agree more with psychological explanation: paradise is our childhood, blissful and serene under parental supervision, while expulsion from this heavenly garden begins with small naughtinesses against them. In teenage years it continues with bigger insubordinations and – I believe – finishes with first sexual intercourse (forbidden fruit!) as a symbol of total disconnection from ones’ mother and father cause it means possibility of conceiving a new human being. In ideal world it should be an act of the biggest maturity...

In this context ‘first sin’ understood as becoming independent and fully grown is just the evidence of adolescence and should be perceived as a positive phenomenom! Without rebellion against authorities there’s no psychical progress! According to psychology each natural crisis in human life is the occasion to development. Life is a series of lessons and challenges which help us to grow (Erikson); In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity (Einstein).

So... let’s not blame Eva or Adam for evil’s existence in universe especially on their name day... I personally choose to accept my human nature with tendency to making mistakes but also ability to improve. I believe we are all light’n’shadow, black’n’white, angel’n’serpent...

Monday, 10 December 2012

"WHAT IS LEFT WHEN THE PASSION HAS GONE"


I probably wouldn’t have watched that film if it hadn’t been the 2nd class students’ suggestion for the Teachers’ Day. And I need to say I would have been poorer of some warm-hearted feelings and discerning thoughts – so let me thank you, my 18-year-olds, for ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’!

We could say it’s another tale of love and war, based on the award-winning book by Louis de Bernières, but as simple as it sounds, the story is truly unconventional. Situated on a small Greek island called Cephallonia, begins with depiction of everyday life of dr. Iannis, respected though unofficial doctor of medicine. He lives with his only daughter Pelagia, beloved and educated by him, preparing to be his work-successor. When Pelagia (authentic role of Penelope Cruz) falls in love with a local fisherman Mandras, her father warns it’s only lust but anyway accepts her choice. The young couple engages and that’s the moment when the Second World War breaks out. Mandras decides to go fighting despite his fiancée’s will and disappears for a long time, never answering Pelagia’s numerous letters. When he finally comes back he confesses his illiteracy and behaves wildly. The woman tries her best but she cannot respect him anymore.

In the meantime Cephallonia is being occupied by quite unordinary conscript soldiers – the Italian Acqui Division entirely consisting of opera singers and musicians. They’re not interested in warfare at all, instead fond of wine, good food and willing women. They wholly fullfil stereotype of Apennine Peninsula’s inhabitants and the biggest ‘Italiano vero’ of them all is their captain Antonio Corelli. Nicholas Cage is not my favourite actor but I cannot imagine anyone else playing this character. He is so brisk & vigorous and has so stunning accent! Yes, he's got Italian background, Aunt Wiki just showed me he’s Francis Ford Coppola’s nephew...

OK – you could comment – we already know where it leads to – Pelagia and Antonio fall for each other, war ends, they live happily ever after... Well, not that quick! There are other protagonists in this movie too! Firstly, the historical links between two great ancient civilisations, Grecian and Roman. Even when Italian soldiers are allies of Nazis they tend to get on better with their Greek enemies than Aryan friends. Music, dance and plain lifejoy unite them so much that in September 1943 it becomes rather easy for whole division to refuse to surrender and fight the Germans for nine days before running out of ammunition. I had no idea that almost 10 000 of Italian soldiers died there – either in the combat or after it, massacred and drowned in the sea by former fascist partners... Secondly, there are also amazing shots of nature, beautiful, spectacular as well as powerful...

The writer himself descibed his novel to be about "what happens to the little people when megalomaniacs get busy." To me these ‘little people’ grow bigger and bigger as they prove devotion, sacrifice, self-restraint... And no, I’m not going to reveal the story ending here! Curious? Find it out for yourself! I wish you a nice watch:).

Sunday, 23 September 2012

ONCE UPON A SEPTEMBER...

Raise your hands if you can’t help looking forward to next Sunday, 8 pm, premiere of the most fabulous ABC fairytale’s second season! I am counting down days and minutes, at the same time asking myself: ‘Why is that? What’s so addictive in this story? Am I insane or do I really want to believe in the magic of powerful feelings?’

Well, let’s try answering: as for me the greatest value of this show are strong women: not only the Evil Queen bending whole universe to her will but also Snow White with surprising underactions as a rogue bandit and Gretel the older sister winning over cannibalistic Blind Witch

Equally strong in both real and magical worlds are Cinderella bravely defending her new-born child, beautiful Belle deciding to live with the beast to save her father’s kingdom, as well as Ruby the not-Little very-Red Wolfing Hood... and even Abigail the princess generously releasing her ‘husband-to-be’ after she discovered he was in love with other – to me she counts as an independent, positive personality too.

But obviously ‘the strongest of them all’ is a female leading character, Emma Swan, mother fighting for her child so many times in so many ways stereotypically believed to be ‘male roles’: in the mine after earthquake, against the dragon monster, against the city mayor... She’s a butt-kicker, intelligent detective, courageous feminine taking all the neccessary actions. Smart, professional and lonely. So realistic even in the very middle of fantasy world.

Anyway all the women in season one are totally anti-Disney creations. They make their own choices, live with consequences, try to change unbearable – with or without men’s help... Yeah, what about male characters? Is it just my impression or do they really seem braver, bolder, more valiant in the fairy world than in reality?? Then what happens to boys in our 21st century globalised civilisation, the example of which is Storybrooke? Why Pinocchio abandons small Emma? Why David Nolan doesn’t defend Mary Margaret as she defended him? Why sheriff Graham is Regina’s puppet?...

And the magic... This TV series helped me understand that magic does exist in our world – that our human emotions are magic, for some of us entirely mysterious, for others recognizable by intuition. Once I’ve read so true sentence: ‘you can’t control your feelings, only what you do about them’ – and the most omnipotent people are these who can take this control in their own hands.

Last but not least: I personally adore the episodes’ titles with double and sometimes triple meaning! “The Price of Gold” is a great example – in a fairy world that’s the price Cinderella must pay for Rumplestiltskin financial help while in a real life that’s the deal Emma makes with Mr. Gold. The same about “Skin Deep” or “Red-Handed”. 

I must admit I’m also a little bit afraid if season two will fulfil my both feministic and child-like expectations for true values shown in a unique way. Still I have seven days to wait. Are you counting them down with me or not?:)

Monday, 23 July 2012

IRELAND AFTER ELEVEN years

I’ve been to Eire for one month in 2001, mostly in western part but also in Dublin for a couple of days. At present I’m spending the same amount of time mainly in the capital city. How much can a place be changed during such a period? Which changes seem visible and important for a foreign observer like me? What things didn’t change and seem to be constant in this most western European country?

THE SAME 
First of all – Irish people. As friendly, open, positive and kind-hearted as I remembered. Whether you ask the way, do shopping, go to any institution or even cross the road not exactly on the pedestrian passage, the reaction is always polite, patient, relaxed and still effective. Honestly, I haven’t met any nervous drivers, any rude officials, any complaining or negative attitudes at all!

Next – the Emerald Island, as green and beautiful from the plane’s window as for the eye of a walker. Dublin – huge, international city, which looks like a nice, lovely town (apart from the crowded centre and industrial areas), thanks to omnipresent parks, meadows, pleasure grounds, grasslands, trees and bushes and these fabulous terraced houses with gorgeous gardens. From what I’ve seen their style is typical for each district. Very few blocks or skyscrapers don’t ruin the landscape. This place is a dream for everybody tired with hustle and bustle of urban agglomerations. 

Weather – yeah, that’s something you can rely on in Ireland. Changeable all the time but no extremes, almost always mild and temperate. And I’ve heard that the best Irish weather forecaster is simply a stone. Why? Well, when you observe the nearest stone and it’s wet, that definitely means rain. Stone is dry – it doesn’t rain. You can see stone’s shadow on the ground – it’s sunny. Stone’s white on top – it must be snowing. What if you can’t see the stone? It’s foggy. Stone’s swinging – windy day. Stone jumps up and down – earthquake, watch out! Stone’s gone and your house too – tornado…

DIFFERENT 
Main difference I’ve noticed is connected with my homeland: in 2001 I was a scout volunteer in Killaloe Water Activity Centre near Limerick and I was the first Polish person the local people have ever met. Poland wasn’t a member of the EU at that time or didn’t have direct flights to Dublin, so I had to travel via Frankfurt and London, at the airports talk to the immigrant officers, go through detailed passport and luggage controls, wait for the permission to stay. After 2004 things really changed. Now there are plenty of Polish people everywhere in Ireland: living, working, staying, sightseeing. There wasn’t a day out during which I didn’t hear my mother tongue somewhere: at a shop, in the bank, on a bus, in the concert hall, while walking around Wicklow mountains and so on...

Secondly – O’Connell street. At first sight it looked exactly the same – multicultural, busy, colourful. Oh, but right in the middle there is this Spire of Dublin, over 120 metres high steel and shiny, pin-like Monument of Light. Installed in 2003, it’s the world’s tallest sculpture and immediately became the most popular meeting point both for residents and visitors. It is amazing, gleaming at dusk, and even the annual cleaning with an enormous crane seems to be a great tourist attraction, considering amount of photos and YT films showing that ‘event’.

Finally, it was very impressive to find out that Ireland became the first country in the world to introduce an environmental levy for plastic shopping bags in 2002 and a public smoking ban in 2004. Added to all advantages of recycling it makes the country rather clean and tidy, with fresh air inside buildings and also outside.

All in all - Eire is a fantastic land worth visiting and coming back...

Monday, 30 April 2012

THAT BLOODY GAME OF THRONES!


Fantastic, thrilling and breath-taking – yes, I couldn’t stop reading, totally unable to take my eyes of the pages until I finished each of five parts, one by one, night by night. But “A Song of Ice and Fire” is also full of violence, brutal sexuality, moral ambiguity. As is the real world in which we live – you may say. That’s why I love fantasy: the better it is, the more complicated and altogether integrated world it creates.

After Narnia and Harry Potter we are used to fantasy in which good wins over evil, heroes do have their bad qualities but are unable to commit serious crimes, villains have hearts as black as the heart of darkness. However, Martin mercilessly breaks this convention. He starts with all range of people’s characters but when the whole Westeros is at war, they behave as if their only choice is ‘change for the worse or die’. Noble Edward Stark? Dead. Smart boyish Arya? Killing machine. Tender barbarian Khal Drogo? Dead. Friendly Theon Greyjoy? Traitor. Victorious Robb Stark? Dead. Brave Catelyn his mother? Monster. Jovial Renly Baratheon? Dead. Cunning Tyrion Lannister? Father-slayer. Handsome Jon Snow? Dead. Cute baby dragons born in fire? Deadly even for their mother Daenerys. She herself becomes cruel too… No angels at all, only outlaws and devils in those books of G.R.R. Martin.

Maybe that’s the saga’s most important message given to us: during the war noone can stay positive and survive, because war is as night: dark and full of terrors... I keep telling myself that fantasy shows us what we want to be like, how we shouldn’t be and makes us believe in happy endings. Is it possible with that gamebook?...

TV series 
American author, American screenwriters and directors – mind you, it’s HBO production. But only one American actor, Peter Dinklage! Rest of cast is European, mostly English, Scottish and Irish. Good choice, they totally prove their superiority – not superbeauties or superstars, ordinary people by appearance, we could meet them on the street and not notice. But in the series they glisten and make the story come true in every second – thanks to their accents too. I love listening to all of them: queens and kings, knights and peasants, adults and kids.

Back to the brilliant American exception among actors, ‘halfman’. He plays my favourite character and I’m looking forward to his show up in each new episode. The most intelligent but physically the weakest, as powerless in this violent world as a child. He’s almost always endangered, with life at risk, but able to remain sensitive and fair. Totally opposite of ancient Plato’s values: beauty = good = truth. Don’t judge the book by the cover, when lovely Cersei is the most wicked of them all…

It seems that Peter Dinklage is literally tied to roles of dwarves. But I’ve seen him as a ‘Little Pocket Friend’ in Chronicles of Narnia and a train chaser in The Station Agent. This last title is not fantasy and still fantastic. Shows that the biggest problem of the hero is not having a short stature but simply being human.  Cause all the people suffer from something that may be not as visible as dwarfism and still destroys their psyche. It may be terminal illness of a relative, death of a child, unwanted pregnancy and so on.

As for now The Station Agent gives more positive message than Game of Thrones, season 2, episode 5. But – is it optimism or naivety? – both the book and the series are to be continued…

Saturday, 7 April 2012

DOES EASTER BUNNY LAY CHOCOLATE EGGS?

In the mythical years of my childhood I didn’t know ‘Easter rabbit’ tradition. We had doughnuts on Fat Thursday, three lenten meals on Ash Wednesday, dried flowers bouquets on Palm Sunday and – the most important of all – Easter Lamb with colourful eggs and plenty of different food products in a basket for blessing on Holy Saturday.

In these magical times I had no idea that there are other countries; not to indicate other customs. Like flying home-made kites in Bermuda, reading detective stories in Norway, ornamenting trees with Easter eggs (specially red and green) in Germany. Or decorating wells with spring flowers in Switzerland, growing wheat in pots on windowsills in the USA and Easter egg hunt in the UK. As for this last convention, I was shocked to find out that children of the British Isles often think eggs come from rabbits, not hens – ‘cause that’s Easter bunny hiding tasty eggs for them in March or April every year!

Worth mentioning fact about Australia: fertile bunnies brought from Europe have rather ‘black PR’ down under so that’s not them who provide children with new-life-eggs but the Easter Bilby (an endangered species of Australia).

On the whole I recognize cultural diversity as a great value in our globalized world; yet it was very nice to read that in ‘brother-like’ Hungary they throw water on each other – exactly as our ‘shower pour’ on Holy Monday. Even if I personally hate this idea and hide myself at home on this very day!


Thursday, 29 March 2012

THEY GOT TALENT!

This morning our students have taken part in 10th Regional Festival of Young Talents – the number means it started being organized before all these ‘Got talent’ shows! And in 2002 nobody heard of YouTube – do we even remember the world without YT?? Hardly so...

Back to the festival: ‘The Petrycy Band’ played one Polish song (Kiss Me) then one in English (Highway to Hell) and one vocalist succeeded. But as for whole bands jury preferred lighter repertoire, not so rocky or metallic... Thinking that de gustibus non est disputandum I’ve come back home, connected the net and (as on every other day since February) played ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ by Gotye and Kimbra. Sudden shock hit me as I realized that never before shared I my music taste with millions! For weeks and weeks Adele plus Gotye & Kimbra stay on top of charts almost everywhere with their thrilling lyrics, unusual tunes and maximally magical videos. I totally admire living at this point in time and space than living in times when L.Gaga or other J.Lo held first positions; hard to listen to and even worse to watch. As my scoutmate once said: “Plenty of popular music videos look like promotion of escort agency”. Yuk!

So, is it a change for better in global culture (cool-ture;) or just one insigificant incident that such artistic, metaphoric and sophisticated records beat all the ‘madonas’ with their nakedness? Should it be a hint to our young musicians and singers or not?

Finally, I don’t understand why so many internauts try to pay compliments to Kimbra commenting that she sings exactly like Katy Perry. But she doesn’t – she’s got her own, original, smooth but strong voice with soft south accent and I love it!

Monday, 26 March 2012

STORK OR STORKESS?

Last week one of my students asked me if I was a feminist. The whole thing came into view as I was explaining why men do have one honorary title ‘Mr’ but for women we need to choose out of three: ‘Miss’, ‘Mrs’ or ‘Ms’.



I must admit I didn’t give a straight answer, just brought back the time, many years ago, when I had conducted workshops about feminism for students in Cracow. Yep, all I had known then was from books or magazines; in books I had read about this very wide variety of movements called ‘feministic’. Now I just have to type the F word in Google’s search box and voila, here it is:
Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. In addition, feminism seeks to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist is a "person whose beliefs and behavior are based on feminism."

Yeah, according to this simply definition I am a feminist. I am definitely and totally for equal political (voting!), economic (earning!) and social (no more double standards!) rights for women. But when I go deeper into the topic, from catholic and conservative feminism on the right wing, through black and postcolonial, lipstick and third-wave, ecofeminism, socialist on the left wing, but also riot grrrl and anarchafeminism to radical, separatists or lesbian one – I find some issues I do agree on and some I disagree about.  

Generally speaking:
Division of labour within households – I’m completely for it;
Reproductive rights – mostly for, especially education and healthcare, but absolutely against abortion;
Gender-neutral language – nice idea, possible in English but not in Polish, no way...
Patriarchal concept of masculinity – entirely against!
Pornography or prostitution – honestly I can’t believe they may be mature and valid choices of any women, can I??

All in all I reminded myself of battle for ideals. Paul P. Mealing, Australian blogger, wrote that this kind of battle is the battle for the future. So, my students, are you feminists?