Sep 042014
Furious Fred: Civic Awareness

You’re probably used to seeing brown water around Krakow’s tram tracks when it rains. Maybe you’ve asked yourself why that is. Maybe, on a dry day, you’ve experienced clouds of fine, iron-red dust thrown up by the traffic. It’s rust from poor quality rails, which is not particular healthy, especially in Europe’s third-most polluted city. You might ask yourself why they don’t clean the roads more effectively. You might wonder why other European cities with trams don’t have the same problem. I’m referring specifically to the new tracks laid since Poland became an EU member in 2004, and the European procurement rules for large projects became applicable. Go from ul. Starwiślna over the Powstańców Śląskich Bridge and then left along ul. Limanowskiego towards Kalwaryska to see what I mean. The tracks are of such low quality that they need constant maintenance. It is not unlikely that you may think that inferior materials have been used to […]

Sep 032014
Tales From The Chalkface: Gifted – That’s Me!

A big sigh of relief – the holidays are here. I’m doing a jolly dance around a pile of presents and cards that generous students, or more likely, their appreciative parents, have given me. This year, along with the chocolates and flowers, I’ve had a Mama Mia DVD and an African tribal mask, which you might think are odd choices but make some sense since the student who gave it has spent time in Kenya and, I hope, was inspired by some lessons about African tribal dance. The DVD leaves me baffled, unless the donor found it as a special offer. At least he didn’t get me Bad Teacher, which would have been very cutting. Joking apart, presents can be rather tricky. Is it a measure of popularity? Chances are the number of presents received is in proportion to the age of the children taught. By the time they’re 17, the sweet little girls and cheeky […]

Sep 032014
Kino Mania: Vabank 1981

Polish cinema doesn’t have many family dynasties like the Sheens or the Douglases, but it does have father-and-son duo Jan and Juliusz Machulski. Director Juliusz even succeeded in revitalising his father’s acting career with his debut, Vabank (1981) – a caper film set in the 1930s. The young Juliusz had been given the chance to live and breathe those few US movies distributed in Poland, thanks to his father. It’s not a coincidence that he later became the pioneer of socially uncommitted cinema in his own country. Despite a dogmatic prologue, aligned with the cinematic moral anxiety that ruled 1970s Polish cinema, Vabank quickly reveals itself to be a comedy caper. The plot has legendary safecracker and trumpet player, Kwinto (Machulski Sr.), being released from prison and seeking revenge for the death of his friend. It is reported that Machulski Jr. watched George Roy Hill’s classic The Sting so many times while filming Vabank that he […]

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