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5. Mike Oldfield, “Five Miles Out” (from “Five Miles Out”, 1982)

2010 for me was the year of rediscovery of Mike Oldfield and listening to his other stuff besides “Tubular Bells”.
I gave this song a try because the piano theme from “Bells” can be heard in the beginning. It paid, because the whole song – inspired by a nearly-fatal plane flight Oldfield experienced – turned out to be great and, despite very 1980s sound (and the video), it has a complex structure. The lyrics are dramatic but optimistic – I cry almost every time I hear the “our thoughts with you / rider in the blue” line.

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The year 2010, while it was poor movie-wise, was awesome in the area of music. Not released that year (although some interesting albums did show up), but music I discovered or was recommended. Actually, some of them are really old and I should have known them for a long time (and could have, it I weren’t so damn afraid to try). But it’s better late than never, right?

Here is the list of by 11 best music findings of the year 2010. Why eleven? I don’t know, I just counted at them and that’s how many there were ;)

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New Year's Resolutions

New Year's Resolutions

The year 2010 has great in many aspects – all the Toastmasters conferences in many interesting places, all the great people I met on those occasions, the Szlachetna Paczka charity action – a lot to do, and all very satisfying.

Last year was also great culturally – I finally gave a proper listen to Mike Oldfield’s works other than “Tubular Bells” and in last weeks I fell in love with Radiohead (thus becoming “thomosexual“). Also, all those movies and books…

Wait. What movies? What books?
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Lost

Lost

“Lost” is over. The series finale aired on May 23rd, I finally watched it last Sunday, and I feel… empty.

But no need to feel sorry for me – this is the good kind of “empy”. The kind you feel after finishing a long, great novel, where you had time to get to know and love the characters. The kind of “empty” many people felt when they finished reading “Lord of the Rings”, and I myself felt it when I was done with “Watership Down” or “Deus eX”. I guess the word “empty” is not really accurate here, then. I think from now on I’ll go with “fulfilled”. Continue Reading »

Two weeks ago I became an uncle.

While “uncle” is a very broad term and can mean a lot of thing, from family friend to some distant relative, and in some of those meanings I already am an uncle to some little people in this world, on May 1ts I have become the Uncle in this one, original meaning.

We were just visiting Wrocław, beautiful city in the West of Poland. I was there for the first time, accompanied by my fiancee and friends, Ewa and Patryk. We were enjoying a very pictoresque bridge in the botanical garden, I have just taken this picture:

Ania in botanical garden in Wrocław

when I got the text from my just-born nephew, saying that he’s name is Patryk, he just (5:54 PM) came to this world and is a beautiful (picture below), healthy (10/10) little (2.8 kg) boy.

The first of May, which in Poland is Labour Day (meaning that Patryk will surely be a hard-working man), is also great date to be born at – I know several people born on May 1st and all of them are great.

Of course, we all went celebrating that evening,

Happy birthday, Patryk!

and a week later, when I traveled to Warsaw for a Toastmasters conference, the new parents accomodated me for the weekend and I could see my first nephew with my own eyes.

Hey, big guy!

Congratulations, Maja and Irek! :)

"New mama's got a son in her eyes..."

And as always in such situations, a song comes to mind…

Hope

Late President Kaczynski with his Wife, Maria

Late President Kaczynski with his Wife, Maria

The plot of the video game “Deus eX” starts on the Liberty Island, at feet of the Statue of Liberty with her head and the torch-welding hand severed. Also notable is the lack of World Trade Center towers in the New York skyline. The game designers explained it by memory constraints, but the writers added an explaination – just as the Statue was destroyed by a terrorist attack, so were the Two Towers.

The game was released in 2000, about a year before 9/11. The developers felt really stupid afterwards.

In 2005 we all heard jokes about how Poland is the only country in the world with a spare copy of the President. I was one of them laughing and re-telling this joke. Now I feel really, really stupid. I think – I hope, really – many of us do.

***

Alan Alda said that comedy equals tragedy plus time. After 9/11 – the events all the world took part in, even if just through the TV screens – I heard first jokes about it just three days later. Now, several comments came to my mind very soon after I heard the news, but they weren’t at all humorous, more ironic. And not funny ironic, either – if there was laughter, it was always dull and painful.

Looks like Komorowski became president sooner than he thought.

Looks like our leaders won’t be arguing about a place on a government plane for some time now.

Looks like the forest of Katyn will drink even more of Polish blood, exactly 70 years later.

Looks like some people got their much awaited replacement of elites.

Is it good or bad, all I could think was what Switch said in “The Matrix”, just before Cypher pulled a plug on her: “Not like this.” If there will be some positive outcome of Saturday’s tragedy, I can’t help but think the price was just too high.

***

But it happened. After denial and grief there always comes acceptance. Mine came quite quickly, although it doesn’t cancel the grief at all. I just hope, and hope very strongly, that despite what all cynics say, we as a country, as a nation – hell, as a whole civilization – won’t let all that go to waste. After Pope’s death five years (and five days – another damned irony) before, miracles happened – all nation, despite any differences or antagonisms, was joined in mourning, but what happened now is much, much bigger. After all, then it was one person – great, of course, but still one person, aged and ill, so the whole world was basically waiting for the worst to happen. Saturday’s tragedy came from nowhere and just hit us in the head without warning, without precedence, taking not one, but almost a hundred people we all knew. Some of them we liked, some not much, but it doesn’t matter now – nobody deserves such end.

Five years ago the miracles came and gone. I hope now something any change that comes will stay. I hope Saturday’s tragedy will bring something good to all of us.

I beg of you, people of Poland, let’s not let it go to waste.

A-Dick-tations

I heard recently that Disney is working on a 3-D animated movie “King of the Elves”, based on a short story by Philip K. Dick. I loved that story – one of the very few Fantasy stories by this author – and always thought it would make a great movie, but not an animated one. I rather thought it to be an actor movie with very frugal visual effects, a story about an old man who encounters the race of faeries in his garden, becomes their king and helps them in their struggle against the trolls. A story similar in tone to “La soupe aux choux” (“Cabbage Soup”), one of the greates Louis de Funes’ movies – about an old man who may have met someone out of this world, but at the same time it all could just be figments of his imagination, induced by age and loneliness. Imagine how powerful would that be if Terry Gilliam got to make it…

But it’s not the Only American Python working on it, but Disney – and not even Pixar Studios, but the same Disney who gave us “Dinosaur” and “Chicken Little”. I’m a little frightened by what will come of it, especially that Philip K. Dick was really unlucky when it came to movies based on his works.

Dick's Adaptations on Chart

Dick's Adaptations on Chart

“Blade Runner” (Ridley Scott, 1982), based on the novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” – masterpiece, “Citizen Kane” of Sci-Fi movies, the greatest film ever made… but as far from Dick’s novel as possible. The time, the place, the characters are all different, not much is saved from the book. Granted, the story is better than that of Dick – let’s face it, “Do Androids…” is pretty mediocre work of his – and the setting, the costumes, the music by Vangelis all add up to the unforgettable atmosphere, but again – it’s a great Ridley Scott movie, but not much of a Dick adaptation.

“Total Recall” (Paul Verhoeven, 1990), based on the short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” – a good Schwarzenegger action movie, with lots of shooting, running, bleeding and eyes-popping in the non-atmosphere of Mars, but again – the story was just the first 10 minutes of the movie, or so. Not much of Dick is left – only at the very end there is a sentence added seemingly just to invoke this “or is it a dream?” Dickish feeling.

“Screamers” (Christian Duguay, 1995), based on the short story “Second Variety” – a solid action movie with Peter Weller of “Robocop” fame. Not too far from the story this time, but forsaking the twist ending for a more positive one… or is it? The fatalistic mood of Dick’s work is well preserved.

“Impostor” (Gary Fleder, 2002), based on a short story of the same name – the greates example of a perfect Dick adaptation – 10-pages long story expanded to a solid feature action film, perfectly preserving the its apocalyptic mood, and modyfying the twist ending to be even more twisted and awesome. Unfortunately, the movies premiere was overshadowed by a much bigger Dick adaptation of the same year, namely…

“Minority Report” (Steven Spielberg, 2002), based on a short story of the same name – a Tom Cruise vehicle widely appreciated, but mostly by the people who never read the story. There nothing left of Dick in it, save for the idea of three precogs reporting crimes before they happen. Everything else, sadly, is not Dick, but Spielberg in the worst sense – political thriller is turned into a family drama. Not good. Not good!

“Paycheck” (John Woo, 2003), based on a short story of the same name – say what you want about John Woo, Ben Affleck or Uma Thurman, I loved this movie. It’s exciting, thrilling, and it takes the brilliant idea of the story and turns it even better – at the same time more believable (of two fantastic contraptions from the story the movie uses only one, with better effect) and more exciting (from six items in the story to twenty in the film). Another good example of good Dick adaptation.

“A Scanner Darkly” (Richard Linklater, 2006), based on the novel of the same name – beautifully rotoscoped and very, very faithful to the novel, this is the case of a movie even slightly too faithful – “A Scanner Darkly” is a novel that needs a little more rearrangement when adapted to silver screen than Linklater gave it. I read an alternate, Charlie Kaufman’s (of “Being John Malkovitch” and “Adaptation” fame) script based on the book and it would be better if Linklater went with that one.

“Next” (Lee Tamahori, 2007), based on the short story “the Golden Man” – never seen it, never will. The trailer is enough to convince me that it’s as far from Dick in terms of both story and quality, as humanly possible. Plus, Lee Tamahori is the guy who killed James Bond in “Die Another Day”, so thank you very much, I’ll pass.

Aside from “King of the Elves”, other upcoming adaptations of Dick’s works are “Radio Free Albemuth” (where Philip Dick is one of the characters), “The Adjustment Bureau” (based on “Adjustment Team”, one of Dick’s best short stories), “Total Recall” remake (why???) and, further down the road – grab onto your seats, everybody – adaptations of “Ubik” and “Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said”, two of the best novels by this greatest Sci-Fi writer of all time. Those last two are being coproduced by Halcyon company and Isa Dick, the author’s daughter herself! Ain’t that just shiny?