Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Piosenka na skok w nowy rok / A Song for the Leap into the New Year

Listen: [Kult, "Nowe tempa"]

My sentiment exactly: I wish us all that our times slow down and catch breath.

Reading for Repetitive Beginners

Repetitive beginners aren't those with just elementary reading skills. Not the ones who would always choose a film adaptation of a book over the book itself. It's the ones who have overeaten reading matter, which means that reading has eaten them and now they cannot help reading cereal boxes, descriptions of detergents, magazine ads, internet banter from facebook status updates to seedy gossip columns, emails (tons of emails), reviews, interviews. They've made reading the central element of their work and compulsory reading lists have eaten their attention. At home, all the novels have teeth.


I got a lovely email from an old friend. In high school we would give each other reading recommendations. I never kept track of what I was reading: allusions led to allusions, accidental choices always swept away designs. But my friend kept a reading journal and had a list of must-reads. He would put ticks by the titles in his journal. (I just had notebooks of quotations, which are now stowed away at my parents', so my feigned erudition plan fell through, we could say.)

The lovely email was like the letters we used to exchange in those dust-covered days of pleasure reading -- it was like a letter and chock-full of great reading recommendations.

Wonderful. But how do I explain that now when I have plenty of reading lists (mostly not devised by myself), I feel that I read almost nothing? Ever since I decided to study literature at university I have increasingly felt the teeth of books. Before that I would sometimes fall asleep with a book. Now I am always prodded by the pencil left between the pages.

In terms of recommendations, I feel like sending my friend this one link: to an article about Margaret Drabble's new book. I can really relate to Drabble's interest in jigsaw puzzles. I don't like them myself, but I know what it's like to desperately need a hobby other than reading.

I am currently knitting two scarves (I never thought I would knit anything, ever). Because of the scarves I haven't posted anything here in a longer while.

But I send my love to the accidental internet tourists and friends who might stop by.
Recommendations for me on how to respond to that letter and/or reading recommendations, please!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


A wonderful relief from authoritarian stylists -- costume-y delight enveloped in intriguing sounds.

(I wish I could be as pithy in the book review I'm working on.)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Oryks i Derkacz

Czyżby świat przedstawiony w powieści Oryks i Derkacz* Margaret Atwood już chwytał nas za gardła?

Pogarda wobec nauk humanistycznych prowadzi do tego, że "specjaliści" nie rozumieją znaczenia i konsekwencji własnych działań. I nie zdają sobie z tego sprawy, niestety.

Ten list z Gazety Wyborczej niestety utwierdza mnie w przekonaniu, że wspólnym językiem dziedzin i krajów staje się nie tyle angielski, co pieniądz. (I zdaję sobie sprawę, jak naiwnie to brzmi, ale z drugiej strony nie uważam, że przyjęcie tego po prostu do wiadomości załatwia sprawę.) Nie będę pisać o tym, jak to wygląda na mojej uczelni, ale nie jest wesoło. Oryksa i Derkacza czytają studenci na seminarium mojego kolegi, a powinni też przeczytać tę książkę konsultanci, którzy tną nam budżet i likwidują wydziały humanistyczne.

W liście do Wyborczej czytamy:

Mój kolega M. wkrótce przestanie być studentem i wkroczy w świat krawatów i dużych pieniędzy. Może z czasem, jako uznanemu fachowcowi, ktoś zaproponuje mu stanowisko w administracji państwowej albo zleci jego firmie zrobienie ekspertyzy dla jakiegoś ministerstwa? Mam tylko nadzieję, że nie będzie to ministerstwo odpowiedzialne ani za kulturę, ani za szkolnictwo wyższe.

... i ciarki przechodzą.

*Yes, I do mean Oryx and Crake. I haven't read The Year of the Flood yet but I'm looking forward to it.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Miracles Happen

Our miraculous finding at the local co-op: ogórki kiszone. One of the foods I miss the most. How do I like them best? (No, not as something to bite on between shots of vodka, though that's one way to have them. And the salt water from the jar helps heal hangover.) I like them sliced, on a kanapka (open sandwich??? one slice of bread) with cheese.

What else?

Chruściki in an ultra-patriotic box -- that's how you know they're made in the USA and not imported. The white eagle tells you so. We haven't opened them yet. I hope they're at least as good as the ones my grandma used to make (she used too much oil and relied on pre-war cookbooks).

And finally:

Imported from Poland -- which means it doesn't contain high fructose corn syrup, it's smoked, and not ground to a pulp like the American "Polish kielbasa" products. And the package has delightful spelling mistakes -- final proof that it comes from Poland in its entirety.

We also found pierogi with mushrooms and dried forest mushrooms. There will be barszcz and bigos this Christmas, albeit experimental.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Dreary Lot of a Bookseller

Found on the internet: The Book Mine -- Stupid Quotes

A sample:

(man gazing around)
"You have a lot of books."
"Yes and they could all be yours!"
"What would I do with them?"
"Read them?"
"Why? I read one once."

Monday, November 30, 2009


Grade cutoffs, originally uploaded by ragesoss.

I once thought such ideas stemmed from teachers' cynicism. I stand corrected.

Unfortunately, I have to write comments on student essays, so I'll just admire this for a bit.

(Via a friend who shares my lot.)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Chcę, chcę, chcę

zobaczyć ten film:

Rewers, reż. Borys Lankosz

przeczytać tę książkę: Olgi Tokarczuk Prowadź swój pług przez kości umarłych.

Mam nadzieję, że ktoś tu notuje i przekaże Gwiazdorowi.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Duże zwierzę

Duże zwierzę was one of those films I had been planning to see for ages and kept missing. Luckily, the cat told us he's a fan of Kieślowski and we absolutely need to push Duże zwierzę to the top of our list. Well, so maybe that's not how I finally saw it, but the cat was indeed there.

The voice in the English trailer is terribly wrong when he announces that (1) the story happens in a village -- it's actually a town, (2) the villagers used to be lovely and kind -- the point is that those people have always been nasty, but maybe not as harmful: it's a film about Polish vices. In addition, the film description lies that it's a comedy -- it certainly is not, though you will smile listening to Jerzy Stuhr's conversations with the camel.

It's a story about irrational hate and destructive envy. I was heartbroken when someone in the mob raised a placard with the word "Precz" [Out!] and when Stuhr was dragged from one office to another to answer strange demands and accusations.

But I was also absolutely amazed when Anna Dymna and Jerzy Stuhr were dining with their camel, making a sweater for him, and taking him on long walks. And the closing scene with camels in the snow is incredibly beautiful.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Witaj, kocie! (Welcome, Cat!)

The cat doesn't really have a name, which I found after I had already exchanged several emails with his human owner. "Kitty" doesn't somehow seem enough -- I have a penchant for epic names. If, as one of my professors argued, Old English found refuge in Ireland and heavy metal lyrics, it seems logical to me that the grand names of the past should be adorned with whiskers.

When he arrived, he seemed to me a bit of a Stanisław: something about him reminded me of the last king* of Poland. After our little misadventure in the middle of the night (he threw up all over our couch), I didn't think so anymore. He has since made it up to us by a great deal of purring, peaceful sleeping, and good toilet manners. And a wikipedia search yielded a better name for him.

This little guy looks like a miniature żbik (felis silvestris silvestris), with that same pattern of gray stripes and exceptionally furry ears and paws. In reality he probably is the fruit of an affair between a tabby cat and a Persian, unless he's a European expat, like us.

But now we call him Mały Żbik, which his human companion would most likely find unpronouncable.

He's made our Thanksgiving break very special, not just because of all the laundry and disinfecting the couch.

* Yes, I know that the last king of Poland was actually a Russian czar, but I don't accept it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


from bronchitis. I got out of bed today for the first time since Saturday. I still feel awful, but not so snotnosed anymore, luckily.

Pictured above: the cover of one of my favorite childhood books - Pan kotek był chory (Mr. Cat Was Sick).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I wish there had been a show like this when I was growing up. More importantly, I would like there to be more shows like this, in different countries.

Link: Smart Girls at the Party

Amy Poehler interviewing young feminist Ruby

Thursday, October 29, 2009

"the centre does not hold"

I'm very grateful for this post. It's really boring and sad to constantly reaffirm that the Cold War is indeed over (and has been for twenty years now) and that the fall of the Berlin Wall followed the collapse of Communism in Poland, not the other way around.

And there's a thousand years of national history--with the good, the bad, and the outrageous--right in that middle that the gracious Western world refuses to admit.

End of rant. Back to work.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Synonyms of Boredom

That's something I asked a student to look up because she was afraid "bored" was too plain a word for an essay about Jane Austen.

Meanwhile, boredom is just fine for me. It's not ennui and not spleen, but plain boredom under a newly-acquired snuggie (blanket with sleeves). Having passed my horrid exam, I am enjoying napping, watching movies I've seen many times already, and playing with the layout of the blog I fail to write.

The colors outside, just about to be washed out by the rain:

Friday, October 16, 2009

Hey, "Kto tam? Kto jest w środku?"

Counting down to the release of the new album. It's unbelievable: Hey has never failed me. It's probably the only band I've been (more or less) faithfully listening to since the early 1990s. (End of schoolgirl confession.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Forthcoming or already there: Marlene by Angelika Kuźniak. New Polish biography reveals Dietrich's Polish connections.

All linked texts are in Polish, since it's pretty unlikely that the book will be translated. Something to ponder.

[An early blog review]
[From the publisher]
[Radiowa Dwójka reading Marlene on air]

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Muppet Truth

Epiphanies of TV comedy:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Do These Sparrows Make the Spring?

For over ten years I've been reading about how the fashion industry is about to turn to models larger than size 0. There was Sophie Dahl for a bit* and the supposed breakthrough was being welcomed and almost announced in women's press for years -- with no effects, as far as I could tell.

Until this year, it seems, when for the first time in history I saw in a magazine a belly that resembled mine. Later in the summer I had the good fortune to go to Canada and, as one of the many souvenirs from that trip, I brought back a copy of Canadian Elle with a beautiful Frida Kahlo-inspired fashion shoot featuring Crystal Renn.

Does this mean that the runway, too, has finally ceased to be off limits for sizes larger than nothing?

It would be great.

And I'd love it if the next move was to confront the age question. I'm sick of looking at 13-year-olds showing off clothes for 30-year-olds (and bodies that are impossible for most of that audience without plastic surgery). These girls should be in school.

* I vaguely remember reading an interview in which Dahl complained that the larger girl image was imposed on her and had nothing to do with her natural weight or the image she had wanted for herself.

Friday, September 18, 2009


I'm thinking of getting this book.

I was a hungry teen: I lost weight at 15 and went crazy. My days were about counting calories, eating half of the half I already was eating, and squeezing in exercise whenever I could. At 18 I suddenly got terribly sick. One evening I took an afternoon nap, feeling oddly weak after a meal and woke up in pain. I thought I was going to die from intestinal cramps -- one of the lousiest, least-romantic, bordering on funny, deaths that you can imagine. My mother called the ambulance, I remember passing out because of the pain in my stomach, and the doctor trying to make me talk, so I stay conscious. I got a shot, which relaxed the cramps and after a few hours of sleep I went to the doctor for what was the first of a long series of visits and exams.

The diagnosis: an ulcer. Sounds simple, I know a lot of people deal with ulcers in one, two years, but I haven't been able to. Although, perversely, the illness helped me get over the worst obsession by preventing me from dieting, I still haven't learned to handle work-related stress or body image fears. (Like now, when I've gained a few pounds and, rationally, I know it doesn't really make much of a difference but I do feel I should lose them. But I'm not actively pursuing this -- just watching my thoughts.)

I wish I could have come to wiser conclusions about eating with a different inspiration than an imminent risk of a hole in my stomach.

But here's what the hole taught me:

raw food and fruit only diets -- crap: your inundating your stomach with acids and providing your body with only a small group of the nutrients you need;

mono-diets -- see above;

"cleanses" -- crap in a lot of cases: I understand they can help you once in a blue moon, but only if you don't belong to the huge group of people who absolutely need to eat regularly for hundreds of reasons (the basic: eating regularly is the healthiest option); if you want to "cleanse yourself of toxins" quit coffee, tea, and alcohol, sauces, fast food, snacks, chocolate, maybe dairy for a few weeks;

exercise -- good BUT if you find you are scheduling your life around visits to the gym, you are bat-shit crazy and if you think you're cool because you jog around your block but then you never WALK anywhere, you're not too smart;

demonizing bread and potatoes -- starch isn't toxic, you need to have a healthy balance of the amounts you consume AND advocate good bread (which does happen to be white sometimes), without half the periodic table in it, keeping it the same for months;

"halp! carbs!" -- change it to "help! synthetic food!"

The food part is easier than making friends with the mirror. I've been practicing for years. I feel like it's getting better, but there are many times when it feels like day one.

It doesn't help to have this as your ethnic beauty ideal and success story (btw, her body's chosen weight was this).

Don't get me wrong, I'm not biased against very slender people -- IF it's their natural weight. If it's a result of a fierce battle with the body, I don't support it. That's why I'm very grateful to Crystal Renn for writing her book and for interviews such as this one.

[ promo]
[Kate Harding on Crystal Renn at]
["No Longer Hungry..." at]
["Crystal Renn... on Having Her Cake and Eating It" - The Guardian]

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Marriage Equality

The American version has Cat Power playing in the background and the girl's name is Megan. The problem, though, remains the same.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Do You Want Fries with That?

I just got an email about an upcoming lecture in which Alain Badiou was described as a "mega-philosopher." It sounds like a meatball sub and BigMac rolled into one.

I think it started when "being a supermodel" became a separate profession from modeling.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The House of Mirth

"The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth."
(Ecclesiastes 7:4)

This is why I don't read the Bible.

The quote comes from notes to Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, which I've been meaning to read for years. I'm in the middle and loving it so far, although my heart is in the house of graduate student despondency (I'm reading it for an exam).

Unfortunately, I'm one of those people who get influenced by the book's cover when they read. So while there are all those editions with monumental female figures on the stairs or fainting due to excessive femininity, I am lucky to possess this Library of America edition (pictured right), where the "h" reaches somewhat too vigorously into Edith Wharton's nose. In this circumstance, Ms. Wharton's expression seems less tortured by New York society than by intrusive poligraphy, which is reassuring. You can cringe all eternity about society, but if it's not women and marriage, society finds other things to be awful about.

The cover with the triumphant "h" also makes the sense of creative struggle with the word more palpable.

I feel you, Edith Wharton, from far below your creative level. During my irregular visits to the house of blogging confusion, I get this sense of struggle in a less literal way (which my deviated septum greatly appreciates). I'm probably one of the last people to discover the much talked/blogged about style blog written by an eloquent 13-year-old. I hope she does better in combining blogging, doing her homework, and having friends than this English teacher.

I really hope she has friends rather than a book deal.

But back to Lily Bart.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Unfulfilled Wish

I wish I could think in the morning.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Pieces of Youth's Dark Awesomeness

If there is a comic sublime, it's in teenagers' diaries.

Just read these magnificent glimpses into young tortured souls -- on Jezebel.

My diaries are hidden (probably too poorly) at my parents' house. They go as far as my eighteenth summer, which I spent traveling to festivals and odd places around Poland and during one of those escapades met my future husband. I have the record of what the eighteen-year-old me thought of him, believe me, although she liked him back then, she would be quite surprised if I could tell her she married him years later.

Adrian Mole's Vogue

Needless to say, I'm not a reader of Vogue. I'm the kind of person who reads about Vogue and similar magazines online and checks out their covers on Photoshop Disasters. At the same time I will stand by my one-time confession that I love women's magazines.

Why do I love them? They make me nostalgic after Communism. Of course, in a Good-bye, Lenin kind of way, because it's a fragmentary, deluded vision of Communism. (But still.)

The issues of Pani, Twój Styl, and Zwierciadło with which I stuff my suitcase after a visit in Poland are very different from Western glossies. Unlike the magazines Naomi Wolf describes in The Beauty Myth, the Polish ones did not result from a deal between plastic surgeons and fashion moguls. When they took off, the economic landscape was a lot like the first seconds of this excerpt from The IT Crowd.

In light of this paucity of beautification options, magazine makers assumed that women can read. Which is why until this day, despite the increasing amount of advertisements filling their pages, those mags still contain a considerable amount of text. So you get actual articles on politics, pains of modern society here and far away, interviews with writers and theater directors, painters, fabulous short essays -- all before you hit against the fashion spread and descriptions of cosmetics that cost at least half of your salary.

Maybe because I've been spoiled by these mags championing the assertion that women can process information and -- like the people in the reportage pieces -- may sometimes be poor and not dine in Manhattan or go to movie premieres, I can't take Vogue.

I got to this piece via Jezebel, probably something like a year after its publication, but as amazed as if it were hot off the press. Like the editor who covered this article on Jezebel I have absolutely no idea what the hairdo it's supposed to describe looks like, even though I think I've seen it in pictures.

The most fascinating thing about this piece though is that it sounds like it was written by Sue Townsend: it's like a scene from a yet non-existent new Adrian Mole volume, in which Adrian gets a job at a women's magazine and, trying hard to figure out a topic fit for ladies, he ends up writing nonsense about hair.

In the book Adrian would get fired for this kind of crap, but in the real world Vogue this runs smoothly and this does not come across as an insult to intellect. How strange.

My naive thought, from which I was cured when I read up more on the writer on Jezebel, was that it really was Sue Townsend writing under a pseudonym. Or at least a major fan of British satirical novels.

Wouldn't it be wonderfully postmodern if Plum Sykes consciously parodied herself in a Sue Townsend style?!

Unfortunately, Sykes has probably never heard of Townsend, probably has no sense of humor, And on top of it all I would not be able to find her piece in an actual issue of Vogue among all the photoshopped adverts of perfume, jewelry, and nose jobs.

I know there's yet another movie about Anna Wintour but I'd personally prefer to find out who the actual Vogue readership is and what brings them to read such inanities and not think it's a postmodern satire.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

First Class

was a failure just because I didn't expect the students to be so mindless as not to leave me place at the table. When I got to the class, my first thought was to say that since I didn't have any place to sit, they can manage the class on their own, bye-bye.

And I should have done that. It would have been much more effective than sitting down in the corner, desperately trying to get to my notes and lesson plan, and mumbling things about how I object to eating and texting in class.

I hope I was weird enough to scare some of them off so that we can actually have a normal number of people on Monday.

I need a crash course in being serious and scary.

Advice! Advice! Please!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Blunders and Duties

Reader (if anyone should stray here from their blogging path for whatever reason), I have married, I have become a teacher (sort of like a governess but I have to pay my rent myself).

I got sucked into the abyss of pedagogical duties just around that last post in June. The abyss is technically supposed to look back at you when you look into it, but mine just spat out student essays.

As luck would have it, the recession has hit the cheerful land of graduate study, where kiddies venture when they're too scared to face the job market. The sharply reduced number of free photocopies was, I think, just enough for me to copy the syllabus; my so-called office doesn't have a window (curious savings) but it does have one of those locks that let you lock yourself in easily; I get to teach on the American Labor Day, while all the cafeterias on campus are closed (because it's Labor Day). Oh joy! And the (censored) publishing house *forgot* to send me desk copies. Twice. Now I can only eat bread and water until the next paycheck comes.

On the whole it's fine, I guess. If only I didn't have a big fat exam hanging over my head...

Meanwhile, I still have my secret imaginary life in Berlin, where I have imaginary kids, say, in Prenzlauer Berg and am able to afford eating out, and where I take long walks like someone out of Baudelaire and I don't have to submit 25 pages about it by the end of the semester.

PS: I don't even know how to reference this gem.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


It's not cats like I know them. Stunned.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Got back home... falling asleep in front of the computer... zzzzzzz...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Suddenly, We're in Nova Scotia

Why didn't anyone tell me Canada was so fabulous? We're in Halifax, it's raining, but it's still amazing.

The one dilemma is that due to time constraints we have to choose:

Peggy's Cove




Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Everything's Overdue

Deadlines are called deadlines for a reason.

So far, my brief faux vacation has been spent on an essay I didn't manage to finish on time and on digging through piles of paperwork that both enables me and divides me from renewing my visa. Up next: preparing a reading list for an exam that awaits me at the end of "summer," preparing a syllabus for the class I'm teaching in the fall, preparing homework (sic!) for the class I'm taking this summer (whose start keeps shifting earlier and earlier for mysterious reasons), more paperwork, and visa trips. Although that last thing sounds vaguely holiday-like, it might end up happening on borrowed time, for which I'll have to beg profs, employers, etc.

I don't even know whom to send to hell.

We live in an evil, militarized world of deadlines and borders. And passport photos that make us all look like ugly criminals.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Stuck Writing

One more term paper to go, not to mention the exam I'm preparing. Online, I spend the majority of my time on google books and library pages. Awful overdose. Meanwhile, the weather outside reminds me of this song:

Monday, May 4, 2009

For May Dreaminess

May 3rd: Sernik Day

We celebrated Polish Constitution Day by baking our first sernik/cheesecake ever. The "/" captures our concentrated attempts to combine Polish and American recipes, which are very different, having wildly divergent conceptions of what cheese is.

My first confrontation with the gaping culinary wound caused by the lack of twaróg (yes, it's like the German Quark, only different) was with pierogi(es). The genuine pierogi z serem have white cheese (i.e. twaróg) filling. With cheddar they are just ridiculous.

I gave up hopes of making my own twaróg after I noticed that milk was good to drink after a month -- it didn't go sour. This explains several other oddities, like why kefir costs a fortune here and why you can only get it at the co-op. I dread to think what possible complications, chemical tricks, and replacement strategies go into the production of sour cream and yogurt.

And what cottage cheese really is. It was the closest to twaróg that I could get, but senselessly salty. The only reason I can think of that would justify putting crazy amounts of salt into butter and cottage cheese (as they do here) is to then effectively advertise other, "low- or non-sodium" products as a remedy for impending death.

You know, salt shakers aren't that heavy to lift and they have the fantastic option of letting you decide how much salt you want, so why sabotage that? The grocery logic here is mostly beyond me.

Of course, in spite of the generally successful hybridization of recipes, the cheesecake came out oddly salty. And yet, I can't post a picture, because I've devoured most of it already.

Once I'm done with my papers, I think I'll take G. on a mission to get some raw milk. I hope it doesn't entail stealing a cow, but there always are things you can't foresee...

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Made Up, Unmade Up

Last night we watched a few episodes of Kasia i Tomek and I realized that if I were living in Poland, I would be buying and wearing more make up.

As a friend of mine said (referring to academic projects, however): once one has such a realization, what does one do with it?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Cardinal

Cardinal with Bokeh, originally uploaded by Uncle Phooey.

I'm having coffee with the Northern Cardinal. He (I know for a fact that it's a boy, because he's red from beak to toe [toe?]) is sitting outside on a branch and not singing for me but for the cardinal ladies in the area. I am almost trying to work on an essay. But it's hard, because there are no cardinals in it, not even a feather.

Friday, April 17, 2009

... and They Don't Even Know How to Make Good Tea

I saw some protesters in front of the post office on my way to mail my tax returns. I know filling those out is hard as hell. Still, I don't think that doing away with them is a solution. Well, actually, I know it isn't. Sorry.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Tea Party Tyranny
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Add Zombies

I'm not sure I understand why.

I also don't understand why I am intrigued by the idea. But I am. Maybe it's the simplicity of the title, which doesn't purport that zombies are somehow implicated in the story but just adds them. Obviously, I can't answer the big question posed by NY Times -- I don't know what exactly zombies add to the plot. Exercise? A dash of female agency as Elizabeth Bennet gets to run around with a dagger rather than sit in a parlor with her mother and sisters?

Or not.

I found an excerpt and illustration (there are illustrations! the book is scoring points with me) here. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Broken Fairy Tale

Where Are They Now? American Queen Hope Cooke
About Hope Cooke the only American Queen who married the King of Sikkim, history and biography of her then and now.

Headline--1963: HOPE COOKE

At the Peak: It seemed to be a real-life fairy tale back in the early 1960s when Hope Cooke, a shy 22-year-old New York debutante, won the heart of the crown prince of Sikkim, a fabled Shangri-la principality astride the Himalaya.

They called Hope "the Grace Kelly of the East" in those days, and the public was bombarded with details of her exotic romance. We learned how the bride, an orphan who'd been raised by the former U.S. ambassador to Iran, had been wooed by her Prince Charming, a handsome widower whom she'd met in India in 1958.

After many consultations by the Buddhist astrologers, the wedding was set for March of 1963, and the public was treated to rhapsodic descriptions of the two-hour ceremony, replete with throbbing Tibetan horns, bejeweled altars, clanging cymbals, and classical chants by imperial lamas. Then the couple was supposed to live happily ever after in a palace nestled in the shadows of Mt. Kanchenjunga, the world's third-highest mountain (which the groom happened to own).

Please read the rest of the story here. They issue scary copyright warnings but when I clicked on the conditions I got blank subpages.

... And come back here!

I'd like to thank Shital Pradhan, whose comment on this post provided the proper ending. The article glossed over the details of Hope Cooke's leaving Sikkim for the U.S... and the fact that she later divorced her king.

I wish I had more time to actually research this. If you know more about the American queen of Sikkim, please drop me a line.

(Image found here.)

So sitzen Sie richtig

This is one of my favorite paintings (and poems). Back in the day, before April turned from Poetry Month into tax month, I would linger over my favorite art and read poems waiting for something (or nothing) to happen.

Not to make it sound too idyllic, I was often bored.

There is a picture of me, though, leafing through an Egon Schiele album, some seven years ago. It was taken in a darkish pub on a hot August day, one of the most surprisingly surprising days when my sandals fell apart and I walked barefoot through the main streets of Poznań.

For years I remembered that a couple of pictures were taken on that occasion but had never seen them. Until Gryzmak dug them up in a box last Christmas. Between the summer we first met and our meeting six years later they had been waiting among other photographs and papers. Objects can be patient like I never can.

I envy that kind of poise as I fill out my forms and wait for magnolias to kick into full bloom. Now they are teasing me, on the verge of opening but still keeping to themselves.

What's admitted by the door can be kept
by the mind. Can be trapped
in a list. Can be lifted

by the tail and tenderly placed
where it will no longer be
in the way. It was never easy.
(from Mary Jo Bang, "This Is How You Sit Correctly (After Goya)")

Sometimes it's hard to make connections and the concluding sentence chooses to imitate the spring.

Monday, April 13, 2009

An Update of Sorts

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Struggling through my tax return forms and everything else...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

"I think it's the best costume for the day, you understand"

I really want to see Grey Gardens.

Jezebel quotes ambivalent reviews. I still want to see both the documentary and the movie. I have a soft spot for Drew Barrymore for reasons beyond my rational understanding.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Unsurprisingly, the Beauty Myth Still Topical

Watch this New York Times video about photo retouching. Then you can click over here for some contrast. Not that those represent anything like a "golden age in socialist advertising" (what a concept...), but at least the people you see in them are not a cocktail of several bodies with extended legs.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Reasons to Write a Song About How You Don't Like Fridays


An hour's drive from here, in Binghamton, gunmen have captured the immigration services building and killed several people. I'm following the news. I have a storm in my head. There's a storm outside. It's raining heavily. I put on another pot of coffee, inevitably thinking that someone had gone to the immigration services earlier today, thinking they'd go back home after getting their business done and they might have been thinking about making more coffee.

Trivialities don't stop. Around noon I get an email from friends about a Neko Case concert later this month. It's pleasantly surprising that sometimes such things happen in this small town. Terrifying that such things are happening in this area as well. The planet keeps turning. News coverage shows that it's also raining in Binghamton. We make lunch. There are probably many people grocery shopping in Binghamton at the same moment. One thinks that grief should stop the world for at least one minute of silence but that is never true. Irony. Coincidence.

I decide I won't go to the concert. Clicking between news articles and youtube, I find this video, am amazed by the beautiful animation (not so much by the music), sad

and still sad, I click over to the news.

(The post title alludes to "I Don't Like Mondays" by the Boomtown Rats, that story, and all shootings, no matter who's behind them and whatever reasons they *pretend* they have. There never are any reasons.)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Just the Shoes

Here are the shoes I wore to my wedding. I was intrigued by friends' requests that I give them a photo of, I quote, "just the shoes." If I knew the selections from the wedding pictures could end on that, I wouldn't have hesitated so much whether to put those very personal photographs on facebook.

I could launch a big debate about the limits of privacy in our strange age, but we all puzzle over these issues daily. (At least I think we do.)

As a little girl I did not fantasize about my wedding (I was not one of those little girls, trust me). And I would never even have pictured the whole problem of "telling people about it." Not even on that most basic level of your aunts and uncles, so the clicking and sending a letter to the world is completely beyond me... In the end I clicked and spread the word and even posted a few pictures. But don't ask me how I feel about it. I'm not sure. It does feel a little bit like showing off.

Our weekday wedding was low key and involved running around rainy Manhattan. On the subway on our way back, after the dinner and before the drinks, a lady asked me about my bouquet. I told her that we had just got married and, immediately, the people sitting next and opposite us were all smiling.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Squirrel Literalists

We watch squirrels running around town and until today had no idea that these cutesy albeit voracious animals turn into mad destroyers once brought overseas. Or they're smarter than one would think and take names like Nutt on a very literal level. Dear American squirrels, Europe might just be too small for you...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

"Is This a Fashion Statement?"

A coffee shop in Manhattan (I beg you, don't ask if it wasn't "S" because it unfortunately was). I'm waiting for my latte.

Curious Woman: "I like your pin. Did you get it somewhere here, in Manhattan?"

Misiula: "No, actually, I bought it upstate. In a tiny vintage clothes and jewelery store."

Curious Woman: "Oh... And this ring? I noticed you're wearing it on a chain.Whose ring is it?"

(Whose ring? I'm trying to guess what she might mean. What do I say? St. Sebastian's? Vishnu's? Or maybe: I stole it from a woman in Central Park? Or maybe she meant the jeweler? Tiffany's?)
Needless to say, it's neither of the above and since it's all the thinking is happening within a second I just say--

"It's my engagement ring."

Curious Woman:"Oh. And why are you wearing it like that? It doesn't fit? Is it a fashion statement?


Misiula:"It fits. I just like to wear it like this sometimes."

When I should have said: "It's a fashion revolution from below. From the country into the heart of the metropolis. And you get to see it start."But I was too absorbed watching real fashionistas queueing for their coffee in sky-high heels.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The End of March

Away--off to New York for three frantic days that seem very distantly related to the construction of a crypto-dream-house, but, nevertheless, believe me, the path to it leads through Manhattan flower shops, and bureacrapcy, and requires nerves of steel.

Please send us positive thoughts through the land and over oceans.

Liepāja beach, originally uploaded by la-la-laine.

Elizabeth Bishop
"The End of March"

It was cold and windy, scarcely the day
to take a walk on that long beach
Everything was withdrawn as far as possible,
indrawn: the tide far out, the ocean shrunken,
seabirds in ones or twos.
The rackety, icy, offshore wind
numbed our faces on one side;
disrupted the formation
of a lone flight of Canada geese;
and blew back the low, inaudible rollers
in upright, steely mist.

The sky was darker than the water
--it was the color of mutton-fat jade.
Along the wet sand, in rubber boots, we followed
a track of big dog-prints (so big
they were more like lion-prints). Then we came on
lengths and lengths, endless, of wet white string,
looping up to the tide-line, down to the water,
over and over. Finally, they did end:
a thick white snarl, man-size, awash,
rising on every wave, a sodden ghost,
falling back, sodden, giving up the ghost...
A kite string?--But no kite.

I wanted to get as far as my proto-dream-house,
my crypto-dream-house, that crooked box
set up on pilings, shingled green,
a sort of artichoke of a house, but greener
(boiled with bicarbonate of soda?),
protected from spring tides by a palisade
of--are they railroad ties?
(Many things about this place are dubious.)
I'd like to retire there and do nothing,
or nothing much, forever, in two bare rooms:
look through binoculars, read boring books,
old, long, long books, and write down useless notes,
talk to myself, and, foggy days,
watch the droplets slipping, heavy with light.
At night, a grog a l'américaine.
I'd blaze it with a kitchen match
and lovely diaphanous blue flame
would waver, doubled in the window.
There must be a stove; there is a chimney,
askew, but braced with wires,
and electricity, possibly
--at least, at the back another wire
limply leashes the whole affair
to something off behind the dunes.
A light to read by--perfect! But--impossible.
And that day the wind was much too cold
even to get that far,
and of course the house was boarded up.

On the way back our faces froze on the other side.
The sun came out for just a minute.
For just a minute, set in their bezels of sand,
the drab, damp, scattered stones
were multi-colored,
and all those high enough threw out long shadows,
individual shadows, then pulled them in again.
They could have been teasing the lion sun,
except that now he was behind them
--a sun who'd walked the beach the last low tide,
making those big, majestic paw-prints,
who perhaps had batted a kite out of the sky to play with.

(This one time, as you see, I didn't stop myself and posted one of my favorite poems.)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I Could Read This All Day

if I had all day for sipping coffee and loafing around à la Whitman.

Godey's Lady's Book
: the major discovery of my class in the Rare Books Library. It has everything one wants from a magazine: from short stories and poems, through articles on more or less current events, to fashion and... cottage floor plans.

It seems more worthwhile to click over to the University of Rochester website and check on what Godey's was writing about in 1850 than waste money on a contemporary women's mag. I say this with bitter conviction, having recently thrown $4 out the window on a copy of Elle a bunch of ads.

One other thing I recommend doing is reading about women's press. Literally, there's more text in magazine reviews, not to mention more insight and humor.*

It seems you'd be more entertained by an imaginary conversation with an eggplant than by a women's magazine these days. I might be cynical,** but I'd really appreciate some content for a change.

* No, the order of links is not meant to be telling but purely accidental ;-)

** and repetitive

PS: Also, Paltrow's GOOP in collision with Lydia Maria Child's The Frugal Housewife. Reality bites!

Wielkie Wydarzenia, które mi przejdą koło nosa...

Lubisz oryginalne ciuchy, niepowtarzalną biżuterię, niebanalne dodatki? Przyjdź na kolejną akcję wymiany ciuchów z cyklu Babi Targ.

Jeśli twoja szafa pełna jest ciuchów, w których już nie chodzisz, nie możesz na nie patrzeć albo w które się już nie mieścisz Babiląd organizuje imprezę dla ciebie!

Cóż, Misiula zostanie w swoich niepołatanych sweterkach, bo Poznań jest za wielką kałużą. Co prawda jadę do Nowegoryjka, ale ciuchowe zakupy to ostatnie, co mi teraz w głowie. Potrzebne kwiaty i stalowe nerwy wobec biurokracji. A poza tym będzie pięknie.

Jeśli jednak macie bliżej do Poznania, biegnijcie, co sił. Więcej o Babim Targu tutaj, tutaj i tutaj.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


(Znalezione gdzieś w sieci)

Dla Ciebie, dla mnie, o krok od Twoich urodzin.

Pipe Dreams From My Mother

(From Another Day in Paradise: 30 Postcards)

Wouldn't sell if I wrote a book about it but it's painfully true...

However, if I were half as good at writing as at cleaning, I'd be a very successful academic/novelist/who knows what else.

Looking for the Devil?

I'm glad this is a blog and I won't be burned at the stake (or will I?), but could the pope be more stupid, hateful, destructive, mistaken, evil? It seems that he's not just continuing the 'great work' of his predecessor who set back Poland (and other) places by over a hundred years in terms of gender equality and sexual health--he's got grander things in mind. Why, no less than the extermination of Africa.

I thought that after this the Catholic church could not beat its record at misogyny and hate-spewing for this month, but the Vatican is like a Pandora's box of surprises.

Let's recapitulate: there were the Crusades, the Inquisition, ages of christianization by fire and sword, so catalyzing the agony of a people decimated by AIDS is... much desired? Why?

I'm really curious to know why the Catholic church wants AIDS to spread without inhibitions, nine-year-old rape victims to die in childbirth, and the world to become overpopulated asap. Is that really the apex of moral development?

The best method for finding the devil that I'm aware of comes not from Christian witch hunters but from Zitkala-Sa's short story "The Devil":

On the following morning I took my revenge upon the devil. Stealing into the room where a wall of shelves was filled with books, I drew forth The Stories of the Bible. With a broken slate pencil I carried in my apron pocket, I began by scratching out his wicked eyes. A few moments later, when I was ready to leave the room, there was a ragged hole in the page where the picture of the devil had once been.

More poignant than any expression of outrage I could add to the list.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Tea in America

I wonder if it's because of the Boston tea party and a distant association with violence that tea is persecuted in America. Black tea--the kind that European adults and babies alike are accustomed to treating as their daily beverage, much like their daily bread--is, apparently, devil's spawn to puritan tastes.

Standing in a tea section of an American supermarket is like going through a wormhole to a parallel universe in which everything is wrong and you almost expect cows to fly.

There is green tea, maté, something that pretends to be like peppermint tea, chamomile with strange additives, something that screams iced tea all over the package, things that pretend they were produced by Twinings... and they're all DECAF.

Finding regular, unadulterated black tea is an epic process, because it is typically shoved under everything else, if you can get it at all.

I have no idea why a nation that drinks coffee basically religiously from dusk till dawn fears natural caffeine in tea as if it were death itself lurking inside the tea bag. The prejudice against black tea is quite incredible. Like the crazy overproduction of plastic coffee cups and coffee shops quitting using real cups it is one of those things that will bring apocalypse upon this land...

Our New Baby

We got him at the toystore downtown.

After much frantic typing (two essays I feel conflicted about) and much delirious spring cleaning, we felt grown-up enough to get a new plush person.

Somewhat distant future plans: potted plant and cat.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Reading Assignment

A few weeks ago I bought James Wright's The Branch Will Not Break on Amazon. I was very surprised by how student-friendly the price was and an anniversary edition to boot!

My surprise was even greater when the book arrived and I discovered that it makes a great prop for the tiny teddy bear and that there is no way I can read it without my reading glasses.

Now, I am an adult and should be better at handling such things. And yet I do feel slightly apprehensive about the reaction of the other critics and poets kids when I take out my little book tomorrow in class.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Dzień Kobiet

(It's already March 8 in Europe)

My ideal Women's Day: flowers, fireworks, tractors.

I have it all (with tractors in the song).

"Kariera czy rodzina?" / "Career or family?"

Disclaimer: I've been meaning to do a double Polish-English post but, obviously, that didn't happen till now. I don't like repeating myself and so, the following post will repeat certain things and then the parts will go wherever they want to go.

This is Marta Żmuda-Trzebiatowska, a Polish actress in her early twenties who just won Viva! magazine's ranking of the famous and beautiful.

Here's what I find striking about the cover:

the enormous letters dominating over Trzebiatowska's face and silhouette in both versions say KARIERA CZY RODZINA?," that is, CAREER OR FAMILY?"

Because, you know, as a woman, you are not allowed to have both. You work, maybe become popular, and one day you win this major beauty thing for celebs only to have huge letters sprawled over your frame like a court verdict.

Feminism's place in Polish culture is, unfortunately, still very much in the pipe dream territory.

The titillation of absurdly final choices takes center stage. Either you're "Mother Pole" whose fertile womb breeds whole parishes of kids, or you're "that woman who chose career and is now paying a high price for it." Or so the papers say.

Images are supposed to be worth more than thousands of words:

I suppose the main idea of this photo shoot was to speed-age her by means of make up so that she looks like a 40-something-year-old worn out by fame. In case she might have been thinking she could have it both ways, the photos serve as a reminder that being a woman is all about sacrifice.

Try to picture a photo of a successful man with the same threat in block letters. Impossible? Why of course. In Viva! offices in Warsaw the crowd that came up with this lame story and photo shoot are thinking that sexual equality would just steal all the drama. Feminism just doesn't sell. Remember.

Is there any chance someone will finally give Polish women a break?


Marta Żmuda-Trzebiatowska wygrała plebiscyt "Najpiękniejsi" pisma Viva! i w nagrodę dostała szyderczą okładkę w tymże piśmie. Polski feminizm, jak wiadomo, przez szersze społeczeństwo i towarzystwo wydające czasopisma uważany jest za twór bajkowy.

Jeśli już miałaś pecha urodzić się jako kobieta w Polsce, tak jak pani Trzebiatowska, twoje życie będzie pasmem ostatecznych i bolesnych wyborów. Gigantyczne litery na obydwu wersjach okładki krzyczą KARIERA CZY RODZINA? Jeśli łudziłaś się, droga niewiasto, że w XXI w. dane Ci będzie bezczelnie cieszyć się obydwiema opcjami, Viva! rozwieje twoje rojenia.

Trudno sobie wyobrazić zdjęcie mężczyzny opatrzone podobną groźbą. Jak wiadomo, facet może mieć wszystko w świecie kolorowych magazynów i prawicowej polityki. Ale kobiety należy straszyć.

Najlepiej za pomocą zdjęć, które postarzają je na oko o jakieś 20 lat. Specjalnie dla zwyciężczyni, styliści pisma stworzyli moralne ostrzeżenie: jak nie nakręcisz zaraz biologicznego budzika, obudzisz się samotna, zgorzkniała, z natapirowaną grzywą i wielkimi literami na piersi, obwieszczającymi światu, że zawiodłaś w twej kobiecej misji.

Warto pamiętać, że te egzystencjalne dramaty rzekomej "odwiecznej natury kobiecej" nakręcają kolorową prasę, dla której feminizm jest nieatrakcyjnym tematem.

[Zdjęcia pochodzą stąd.]

Spatial Orientation

View Larger Map

Mr. G. and I set out on a mission to see if and how we could cross Route 13, a major obstacle between us and Aldi. Yes, Ithaca has an Aldi, an unexpected and uncanny German element floating about in mostly American surroundings, like the seemingly impassable stretch of highway, which exists in defiance of pedestrians, peripatetics, and--generally--people who have crazy ideas such as walking to the grocery store.

We were fortunate enough to find a well-hidden crosswalk with traffic lights and, after wandering about in a warehouse area, get to Aldi. And it really did look like any Aldi, Lidl, or Pennymarkt we remembered from Germany. For the first time since I moved here I saw a tea section that didn't have any decaf tea and was able to get European chocolate for a normal, fairly reasonable price (nasty Hershey's can go drown).

On our way back home we stopped at a wine store and got drawn into a wine tasting. The wines were generally bad (my instinct is that good red wines come from warm areas, so I'd be surprised if Finger Lakes reds suddenly evolved into somehing grand). We picked up a bottle of Spanish merlot and walked (yes!) back home.

The next major advance we're anticipating is New York state finally allowing for the sale of wines in regular grocery stores. As much as we enjoy these epic walks to Route 13...

Monday, March 2, 2009

Tricycle and Meadows

Tricycle. How the hell do you pronounce that?

I bought Tricycle for Mr. G. today and the first thing we did was solve the "Which Buddhist Personality Are You?" quiz. Mr. G. is equally Greedy and Deluded, while I am Deluded with a tinge of Aversive. Considering that I am not a buddhist, I still feel like I learned a lot about myself.

In the solutions section, they mentioned something about meditative space that would allow me to believe in pretty things instead of constantly imagining disasters.

After reading Robert Duncan recently and rereading my favorite meadow poem by Elizabeth Bishop, here's what I think they meant:

Cape Breton meadow, originally uploaded by LandVike.

Incidentally, we're planning a trip to Nova Scotia later this year, so it all connects (if you're properly overinterpreting quizzes).

Back to grim reality:

earlier today I almost froze my fingers off. I really can't tell the weather here by just looking out the window. It was sunny and so I breezily left the house with my pretty and useless purple gloves. And, guess what, was not pulling my leg: it really did feel like -21 Celsius. When I got back home (i.e. was blown back downhill by icy gusts of wind), my fingers were red, swollen, and pulsating with heat. Fortunately/unfortunately, I can type (as you can see) and need to write my essays I cannot write due to my usual intellectual paralysis. I, indeed, am Aversive and Deluded.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


"I hate writing, I love having written."

Thank you, Dorothy Parker, for stealing my thoughts on the subject.

I've exhausted the more obvious means of procrastination--I even prepared the invitations and sent them out--now I really have to sit down to write my midterms.

It's not just the question of my blatant laziness, fear of writing, and reluctance to look at my thoughts on the screen/on paper. The thing I've been trying to grasp is why in order to even start writing, I need to feel deeply distraught?

It's only when I feel like in that bad movie about Sylvia Plath where everyone goes crazy because of the oil paint on the walls in all their houses--only then am I able to write.


Friday, February 27, 2009


Still waving, not yet drowning

I am prone to go crazy over work and balancing between work and personal life. I am going crazy recently.

On the side of good things: I found my watch; I made reservations for our trip next month.

But it's a hideous rainy morning when I feel like I'd like to live on the bottom of a pot of coffee. I can't wake up and there's work to do. Ideally, I should now be writing three mid-term papers and a conference piece and sending out wedding invitations that I haven't prepared yet....


If anyone knows a simple yet inventive way to make email invitations with pictures, pretty fonts, and background colors, this is the time to reveal your talents.

PS: I took that picture in Vienna in 2006--it's the Museum of Modern Art (MUMOK) adorned with an alternative to an exhibition poster. Unfortunately, they took it off the building a few months later. It is a wonderful metaphor for my state of mind.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday Confessions

It's Sunday evening and after a week filled with 19th-century sentimental fiction, I feel whimsical.

The downside of studying literature is that though you do get to fill your life with reading interesting things, it's not necessarily that the assigned reading is what interests you at that particular moment...

So I started drawing up a list of what I'd really feel like reading now (but can't because I'm reading lots of other things). On top of the list is Stevie Smith. I only ever get to read her poems online, without the drawings, and read essays that mention the drawings but never reprint them. I need to change that. (And why did I ever give up drawing? At least I'd have another way to vent...) She's fun, brief, morbid, and didn't waste her time writing lofty manifestos. (Although I don't think planning and going about your suicide is a better way to spend your time.)

I'd also like to read Elaine Dundy's The Dud Avocado (since reading this post; yes, I know I didn't exactly run to get the book asap).

And Mary Jo Bang's last (i.e. most recent) book of poems. It took me shamefully long to get it.

This children's book, which I read at least three times as a child.

Since I already got in this oddly confessional mode (because I'm drafting a paper on the confessional poetry), I might as well say that I'm pushing away reading a batch of essays on New Criticism and its impact on contemporary literary criticism (snoring already?) by contemplating whether I should make myself another mug of tea with soymilk. Soymilk is fat and so New Criticism has better dietary effects.

(Snoring already?) Off, then, from the realm of unread to the realm of reading assignments...

PS: Tea in the US deserves a separate post.

Thursday, February 19, 2009



Nawet gdy cię nie ma w słowniku, jesteś cudny.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I Don't Even Have a Door to Put This On...

but I want one for my imaginary house:

The designer is a friend of Mr. G's and, frankly, I'll be happy if by posting this I can support the cause of transforming the world's peepholes into little eyes of wonder.

For more nosy creatures visit Avelewa's site or stores Pakamera and Wylęgarnia.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Art of Losing

I lost my mother's watch. Actually, I lost the watch my mother gave me. And my favorite teaspoon. It should take me some time before I misplace this house and I can't really see myself hiding the continent from everyone, but I do feel like my losses are a disaster.

And a sign of a serious disability.

Card purchased at a store with vintage jewelry and trinkets, DeWitt Mall, Ithaca, NY.

Both domestic and foreign, given who I am and where.

Documenting Another Attempt to Wake Up and Stop Daydreaming

and get to work.

Somehow, that's not really happening...

As Mr. G. says, well, it's really July and we're in a meadow. Lazy.
(That last detail is true for this Monday morning in February.)