Tag: Polish

That Lofoten football field from above

Friday, 15 March, 2019

If you’ve got a PC, you might know that Windows Spotlight is a default feature included in Windows 10 that downloads background images automatically from Microsoft’s Bing search engine and displays them on the lock screen. One of the most popular of those images is the football field on the Lofoten Archipelago in Norway, and that famous football field appears here in the first 20 seconds of “Lofoten from Above” by the excellent Polish photographer and video maker Maciej Ławniczak.


The gift of the garden

Sunday, 2 July, 2017 0 Comments

Diplomat, dissident, defector, poet, Nobel Prize winner… What a life Czesław Miłosz lived. After World War II, he served as Polish cultural attaché in Paris and Washington but, disillusioned with Communism, he defected to the West in 1951. His resulting book, The Captive Mind, became a classic of anti-Stalinism writing.

From 1961 to 1998 he was professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Berkeley, and he puncutated his stay in the USA by winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980. Fellow Nobel prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney described Miłosz as “among those members of humankind who have had the ambiguous privilege of knowing and standing more reality than the rest of us.” Born on 30 June 1911, Czesław Miłosz died on 14 August 2004 in Kraków.

Gift

A day so happy.
Fog lifted early, I worked in the garden.
Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers.
There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.
I knew no one worth my envying him.
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.
In my body I felt no pain.
When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.

Czesław Miłosz (1911 – 2004)

The garden


We’re not just saving lives, we’re saving souls

Friday, 22 July, 2016 0 Comments

Tomorrow, Frank Turner is playing in Latvia, in Cēsis, to be precise. To give you an idea of how history has had its way with this region, Cēsis is called Wenden in German, Venden in Livonian, Võnnu in Estonian, Kieś in Polish and Цecиc Tsesis in Russian. After Latvia, Frank is off to the USA for a huge three-month tour and he’ll be back on this side of the Atlantic on 16 November when he’ll play Dublin, Ireland.

“Hear ye, hear ye, now anybody could take this stage.
Hear ye, hear ye, and make miracles for minimum wage.
Hear ye, hear ye, these folk songs for the modern age,
Will hold us in their arms.”


Czeslaw Milosz predicted CRISPR

Sunday, 28 June, 2015 0 Comments

CRISPR is much in the news these days. It’s a revolutionary technique that makes editing the genes of living beings relatively easy. The implications — both frightening and promising — are such that the scientists who discovered CRISPR have recommended a field-wide moratorium on using the method to edit human embryos. They encourage continued work in editing mature human cells, but draw the line at changing DNA prior to birth. They’re a bit late in bolting the lab door, however, because Chinese scientists have already genetically modified human embryos using CRISPR.

Like artificial intelligence, genome editing is outstripping our ability to understand its ethical implications. But while we wait for Pope Francis or President Obama or Chancellor Merkel to take a position on this issue, let’s read Czeslaw Milosz, the Polish poet who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980. Normalization, as translated by Clare Cavanagh, prepares us for the “onset of universal genetic correctness,” which is even more terrifying than political correctness.

Normalization

This happened long ago, before the onset
of universal genetic correctness.

Boys and girls would stand naked before mirrors
studying the defects of their structure.

Nose too long, ears like burdocks,
sunken chin just like a mongoloid.

Breasts too small, too large, lopsided shoulders,
penis too short, hips too broad or else too narrow.

And just an inch or two taller!

Such was the house they inhabited for life.

Hiding, feigning, concealing defects.

But somehow they still had to find a partner.

Following incomprehensible tastes—airy creatures
paired with potbellies, skin and bones enamored of salt pork.

They had a saying then: “Even monsters
have their mates.” So perhaps they learned to tolerate their partners’
flaws, trusting that theirs would be forgiven in turn.

Now every genetic error meets with such
disgust that crowds might spit on them and stone them.

As happened in the city of K., where the town council
voted to exile a girl

So thickset and squat
that no stylish dress could ever suit her,

But let’s not yearn for the days of prenormalization.
Just think of the torments, the anxieties, the sweat,
the wiles needed to entice, in spite of all.

Czeslaw Milosz (1911 – 2004)


Symphony of Sorrowful Songs for the children of Newtown, Connecticut

Saturday, 15 December, 2012 0 Comments

The Polish composer Henryk Górecki is remembered mainly for his “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs”. The first and third movements are written from the perspective of a parent who has lost a child, while the second movement is from that of a child separated from a parent during an evil time in Europe’s modern history.

Evil is an effort to destroy what is good by making the good appear powerless. Yesterday was a day when evil manifested itself as a gunman who killed 20 children and six adults at a primary school in Newtown, Connecticut. But as this recording of the “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs”, which was made at the 14th-century Church of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven in Kraków proves, evil can never defeat good.