Sunday, February 28, 2010

59/365: The shoelace peddler

59/365: The shoelace peddler
February 28th

Today was a very good day- probably because it felt like spring, at long last. I love winter, but seasons are supposed to change. Today was sunny and warm, and when I went to town to buy candles for my dad's birthday cake, I saw this man selling shoelaces by the subway station. I could have framed this photo better, but I was trying to be discreet. A lot of these street vendors have no permits, so I wasn't sure whether he'd appreciate having the photo taken. In any case all I really wanted were the rainbowy laces...


Luggage, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
I missed this photo by a fraction of a second. As I got out of the underground passage, I saw a group of young Asians dragging their multicolour suitcases towards the train station, one after the other like ducklings in a row. I pulled out my camera but they had reached the stairs by then.

I did a quick sketch when I got home instead.

A moment to advertise a newly-sprung art blog by someone I know: . If you like ephemeric, delicate and slightly disturbed sketches, you'll like what she's got.

58/365: The website

58/365: The website
58/365: The website, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
February 27th

I finally finished reworking my dad's website from ugly, table-based html 4.0 (sic!! it was really old...) to a lovely and easily updateable mix of php, css and mysql. My dad turns 75 this monday, and his skills with the computer are rudimentary at best, so it was somewhat of a challenge to make him understand just why this new website is so much better and easier to update. I finally ended up saying "Adding anything to the old website was like woodblock printing. This is like movable type."

He understood that analogy :)

Here he is in the photo with my mum, looking at the site. He even promised to start writing articles for it again. I'm pleased.

A dla polskich czytelników informacja: pojutrze urodziny Brylla, nowa strona ruszyła dziś, i będzie od tej pory działać na zasadzie bloga. Kto chce posłuchać prawdziwych (nie takich licealno-czyściutkich) opowieści o tym jak hulali poeci i artyści w latach 60 ubiegłego wieku...zapraszam do czytania 'Zapisków'. Będzie wesoło.

 A, no i Bryll jest także na Facebooku. Zostań fanem!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

57/365: Tea in the evening

57/365: Tea in the evening
57/365: Tea in the evening, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.

February 26th

A friend stopped by- he is getting on a plane in the morning. We drank some tea.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

56/365: Sad pigeon

56/365: Sad pigeon
56/365: Sad pigeon, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
February 25th

He was huddled against the wall, though it is not at all cold today. Maybe he was sick- maybe he was just feeling gloomy. He had very pretty colours.

The rest of the post comes with apologies to Piotrek, I know how much you hate pigeons.

Though there may be some disagreement on the difference between a pigeon and a dove, the terms are used interchangeably, except where romance is involved. In those cases the bird is always a dove- you would not want a hundred white pigeons released on your wedding day, would you?


The fact is they are both Columbidae, and all of their species prove to be prodigious excreters, regardless of the colour of their plumage.

By sheer numbers the Columba livia domestica
takes first place in the ranks of nuisance; interbreeding with wild and domestic species this feral bird has well earned its conservation status of 'Least Concern'. I've heard people call the city doves 'winged rats'. They're filthy, messy, carry diseases, and nest in any available urban crevice. They are noisy in spring.

For all that, they have a certain charm. What would any great city square be without its pigeon population? A lot cleaner, one might say, but also a great deal less vibrant. What would old town cobblestone be without the cluck and flutter that so preoccupies tourists of all ages? What would city skies be like without these birds, so resilient to pollution and adapting perfectly to our rough, urban environment?

London Pigeons

267/365: Cracow

I like pigeons. The grey ones, the dappled ones, the ill ones with only one leg left. I don't really mind that they poop, if they coo as well, I don't mind if they fly at me, if they do so when I'm taking a picture. Feral animals in cities can be a nuisance and a health hazard, but if they were to disappear, a great deal of character would leave the city right along with them.

336/365: Wings

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

55/365:Of reincarnation and onion soup

55/365:Of reincarnation and onion soup
February 24th

Dinners at my parents' house are nice. My mother provides the good food, and my father provides the interesting conversation. Today it was onion soup and thoughts on the afterlife.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

54/365: Bad

54/365: Bad
54/365: Bad, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
February 23rd

I had no ideas for a picture today so when Guinness suggested a walk (he is very persuasive) late at night I decided to just point my camera at something and fire that nasty built-in flash.

This is a little meadow at the edge of our neighbourhood which gathers water whenever possible. The snows have been melting, as you can see...and that is Bad. ;) (or 'pool', I suppose, or 'pod'... it's like a trash-in-the-deluge Rorschach's test.)

Drawing people from a magazine

Face practice

I figure maybe if I do this every day eventually the drawings will look like the subjects. Hm?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Jungle Ghost

Jungle ghost

If I can't draw people, I will draw plants. And ghosts.

53/365: The Orange Alternative

53/365: The Orange Alternative
February 22nd

On December 13th 1981 Poland was put under Martial Law. In protest, citizens began to paint slogans of freedom on buildings, but these were promptly painted over by the military. It was not long before the cities were covered in dark blotches hiding the slogans- and it was on these blotches that members of the Orange Alternative painted, in turn, little dwarves. We call them 'krasnoludki', and they are something like a gnome or pixie, coming from old folklore with pointy shoes and hats and an unquenchable spirit of freedom and mischief. Over a thousand such gnomes were painted across the country.

The krasnoludek preserved under this sign was painted on a blotch of paint meant to cover up the anchor-like symbol of Fighting Solidarity, an anti-communist organisation. As the sign itself says:

"It is the only remaining mark of the originality and courage of the Orange Alternative, and proof that regardless of the times we live in, humour and laughter can prevail over the saddest reality."

Indeed. If you read up on the movement you will find such fantastic stories as that of the Revolution of Dwarves, when more than ten thousand people wearing orange gnome hats marched through the city of Wrocław. That was in 1988, a time when you did not have to do much more than that to get arrested- certainly carrying a leaflet that said 'Citizen, help the militia, beat your own self up' would not help your cause.

The Orange Alternative still exists today and still organises surrealist happenings meant to mock the absurdities which can stem from any system, and encourage independent thinking.

52/365: Green and Black's

52/365: Green and Black's
52/365: Green and Black's, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
February 21st

My cousin is visiting from London and she brought me a box of tiny little Green&Black's chocolate bars. Organic, Fair Trade, delicious.

Following are other pictures of delicious chocolate. I apologise to those of you who gave up sweets for Lent. I haven't- my fourty-day fast comprises only procrastination.
And yet despite this noble goal I haven't given you any interesting stories recently. Project 365 is fantastic, but not without its hurdles, and there are periods of time when you just don't feel like making any extra effort beyond taking the picture and uploading it to the site. I wish this blog was popular enough to make such a casual attitude inappropriate, but I know so far no one really minds if I lapse.  The other problem is that my knee still hurts. I'm getting an x-ray done tomorrow, but until I know what's wrong I'm not going to go running around looking for photo opportunities. Sorry. ;)

Let's have a few random facts about chocolate, since that's the photo subject. The stuff first came to Europe with Christopher Columbus towards the end of the XVth century. In 1737, Linnaeus gave the cocoa plant the name 'Theobroma cacao'. Theobroma is greek for 'beverage of the gods'.

99/365: Hot Chocolate for Dyngus Monday

The word 'chocolate', however, comes from the Aztec language called Nahuatl. The word is xocolatl, and means bitter water.

310/365: Any excuse

The first chocolate bar was produced in England in 1846 by a certain mr. Joseph Fry. In 1875, milk chocolate was first created in Switzerland by mr Daniel Peter, who cleverly thought to use condensed milk invented by a certain Henri Nestle.


The average Pole eats about 3.6 kilos of chocolate yearly, which is not much compared to the 12 kg/annum consumed by the average citizen of Switzerland.

113/365: Chocolate

And that's all for tonight. :)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

51/365: A feather

51/365: A feather
51/365: A feather, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
February 20th

A tiny feather in the snow. I wonder whether it was lost, or stolen.

Here are some more feathers; one in the grass...

There was once a bird

...and one in the sand.


50/365:Word Canyon

50/365:Word Canyon
50/365:Word Canyon, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
February 19th

In a room in the back of a little store selling religious items hides a fantastic bookstore...I brought home a Lexicon of Explorers, Paul Herrmann's "Zeigt Mir Adams Testament" or The Great Age of Discovery and Georges Blond's "Grands Navigateurs". I have too many books already, and no money at all, but honestly, who could resist?

49/365: Guinness

49/365: Guinness
49/365: Guinness, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
February 18th

I'm visiting my parents in Warsaw again, and guess who's happiest to see me? :) All right, he doesn't look delighted in this photo but that was because everyone was eating soup and he was anxious to get the bowls for licking.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

48/365: Pencils

48/365: Pencils
48/365: Pencils, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
February 17th

Today wasn't the day for photos. Here's some pencils. A cop-out picture which I've been guilty of before:

337/365: Pencils

105/365: Last minute pencil jar

88/365: Strugaczka, temperówka, strugałka, ostrzałka.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

47/365:City snow

47/365:City snow
47/365:City snow, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
February 16th

It is pretty, fluffy, and white when it falls, but it doesn't stay that way for long in the city. As seen from my third floor window.

46/365: Someday I will have real shelves

46/365: Someday I will have real shelves
February 15th

Another day at home. My knee doesn't hurt so badly that I can't walk but I want to give it as much rest as possible by staying home. I don't want the spring bike season to find me with an injury!
6/365: My roomsypialnia1.jpg363/366: My place
Anyway, this is yet another last-minute photograph of my place. I recently rearranged my sparse furniture and got rid of some junk and now I have, shock-horror, free space on my bookshelves (there is a third bookshelf on the other side of the room, behind the camera). I love books. These are almost all of the ones I bought myself, some which were lent or given to me, plus quite a lot of my childhood books.There are several hundred more of those back at my parents' house and it will be a long time before I move them all. I don't have a car- I've been moving over to this apartment via train for the last four years. (see how the room has changed over the years in the photos on the left)

Anyway, to paraphrase Terry Pratchett, a person who has enough shelf-space for all their books is not worth talking to. Ergo, I need more books.

Unfortunately, I'm unemployed right now, so I am trying to read what I have before buying any more. Right now I am very slowly making my way through J.M. Roberts' 'Short History of the World'.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

44/365: A postcard from Lodz

44/365: A postcard from Lodz
February 13th

My knee still hurts so I'm trying not to walk too much, which means no day trips to catch interesting photo ops. Still, I had to leave the house to go buy some catfood. This is the only picture I took's surprising how many people haven't used their cars at all this winter.

I need to concentrate a bit more when I'm taking photos, somehow they all come out blurry these last days.

Friday, February 12, 2010

43/365: At home

43/365: At home
43/365: At home, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
February 12th

I spent all day at home today, sorry, I don't have anything interesting to show you.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

42/365: Pączki for Fat Thursday

42/365: Pączki for Fat Thursday
February 11th

This is a confectioner's stall at the market near my place. Normally the shelves are filled with different kinds of cakes- chocolate eclairs, honey gingerbread, puff pastries, jam buns...

But today, it is all pączki. Because today, my friends, is Fat Thursday, and custom declares that on Fat Thursday a person should eat as many pączki as they can. And then they should eat some more.

Now, there is a common misconception in America, I have noticed, about this traditional Polish dessert called 'pączki'.

Pączki for Fat Thursday

First of all, we do not eat them on Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras is the Tuesday followed immediately by Ash Wednesday, effectively the last day of the Carnival before Lent, but it is not a feast celebrated in Poland.

We do not celebrate 'Pączki Day', either. That is a Polish-American tradition.

At home in the old country, what we actually celebrate is Fat Thursday (Tłusty Czwartek). It falls on the last Thursday before Lent- almost a week before Ash Wednesday. In other words, today.

Second of all, they are not doughnuts. Doughnuts have holes in them and they are a completely different dough besides. And what you might think are doughnut holes are mini pączki, or pączusie.


31/366: Pączki for Fat Thursday
Now, about the name itself. I have heard the word explained as 'packages'. Not so- the word actually means 'buds'. See the little tail underneath the 'a'? That makes an 'aw' sound, and the word is pronounced 'pawnchkee'. The confusion comes from replacing the letter with a regular 'a': 'paczki' are, indeed, packages, preferably wrapped up in brown paper and tied up with string. 'Pączki', however, are buds, such as you would see on a tree in springtime, and though the cakes named after them do often come wrapped in paper, its colour is waxed off-white, and the string is ribbon rather than jute.

Note also that the word is plural, the singular form being 'pączek' (pronounced 'pawncheck'). One pączek, two pączki. Of course it is only natural that the English language would add an extra s and adapt the word as pączkis. :) (the aforementioned 'pączusie' is a diminutive, and indicates the 'pączek' has been shrunk to cuteness.)

If all this etymology has made you hungry, you should feel justified in running out to the nearest confectionery shop and bringing home as many sweet pastries as you can carry. It is, after all, Tłusty Czwartek.

(photos from Fat Thursday 2010, 2009 and 2008)

50/366:Make way for the pączki!

41/365: The Birds

41/365: The Birds
41/365: The Birds, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.

February 10th

The talented princess in the photo is my college roommate, turned post-college flatmate, now the author of her own animated short feature. Students make one at the end of each university year, but the last one, the diploma and often public debut, is the most important. Coupled with a written thesis it completes the graduation process and, if good enough, earns one the title of Master of the Arts.

Marta will pass with flying colours, I'm sure. The can she is holding in her hands contains a 35mm copy of her masterpiece. You should go watch the trailer at her website; the film is called "The Birds" and from what I have seen it follows the creepy traditions of Hitchcock, Gorey, Poe, and good old black humour. She won't let me see the whole thing until the premiere. Artists, sheesh...

This picture is itself an out-take; she needed a shot of herself to use for a thank-you card to send to the people who helped her make The Birds. A lot of hard work went into this film. I really hope it does well.

If you're not yet enticed, here is a still from the film:

Do check it out, and leave comments here if you like it! She will be thrilled to hear your opinions. :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

40/365: The train to Lodz

40/365: The train to Lodz 40/365: The train to Lodz, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.

February 9th

Seldom so empty- I love when that happens. There were times where I had to ride standing up the whole way, wedged between someone's backpack and someone else's bike, balancing on one foot while the other was being crushed by a suitcase.

Monday, February 8, 2010

39/365: Red on red

39/365: Red on red
39/365: Red on red, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
February 8th

Barszcz with mushroom-stuffed pierogies can make many troubles go away. Even if the photo you end up taking of it is badly framed and just a tad blurry. ;)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

38/365: Pigeons in a row

38/365: Pigeons in a row
38/365: Pigeons in a row, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
February 7th

I had to drop into Warsaw today. And it was very cold, and windy, as it tends to be on these wide streets built particularly for communist parades and tank advancement. Rather than serving you the usual landmark I snapped a shot of some locals loitering by the train station.

I notice something I haven't seen on Blogspot before: an 'add location' button. I like that. Though since I already geotag all of my photos on Flickr, I wish the information could just cross over.

Anyway, I tagged the picture. ;)

37/365: Anytime flowers

37/365: Anytime flowers
37/365: Anytime flowers, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
February 6th

Not a very good photo, not a very good day. This is a place I usually pass on my way home- the local vegetable-and-hodgepodge market, fronted by half a dozen or so flower kiosks. If you need a bouquet at two a.m. , this is where you should go. There is always at least one kiosk open all night long.
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