Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The real victims...

The second anniversary of the Smolensk crash that killed President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others in Smolensk, Russia provides a fitting opportunity to shine a light on the continued political idiocy of Lech's surviving twin brother, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, and the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party he leads.

In case you missed it, Jaroslaw and his PiS minions now openly say Lech was murdered by the Russians.

"Lech Kaczynski exposed himself to those who do not want Poland to be effective," Jaroslaw said on Monday. "All indications are that this ended in an attack. I have the feeling that President Lech Kaczynski was murdered. In Poland and abroad were people who could benefit from the death of Lech Kaczynski. And did."

Hmmmm. People who could benefit and did? Well, they can only be thinking of Civic Platform (PO) leader and PM Donald Tusk, or maybe the PO in general and in particular in the 2010 presidential election.

The only trouble is that Lech Kaczynski was extremely unpopular that year and, though you can never rule out a comeback, it is likely Popeye could have won if the PO presented him and he ran against Lech.

Did Russia benefit from Lech Kaczynski's death? Unlikely since there has not been any real change. In fact, Russian President Vladimir Putin would have to be the dumbest politician of all time to have ordered the killing of Lech Kaczynski since the latter was about to lose an election and his death did nothing other than increase the already antagonistic attitude toward Russia held by a certain part of the Polish population.

As for the allegations of an attack, all signs continue to point to a series of events all occurring until it ended in a crash in the fog. Tragedy does not imply guilt.

Two things still infuriate me about the Smolensk catastrophe. The first is that the head of the main opposition party can make outlandish allegations with impunity. In some countries, proof is needed or the politician making the accusations has to resign. We can only hope this day comes.

The second thing is far worse. For anyone in Poland that foggy cold Saturday morning two years ago was an unbelievable moment that touched all of Poland. I remember it like I remember 9/11. I still get those goose bumps. That one political option is trying to co-opt the memory does a disservice to the real victims.

No, Jaroslaw and PiS members, the real victims are not you. They are those whose lives were cut short that tragic morning. RIP.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Public enemy number one: Lektor

The tension nears the unbearable, muscles clench, the hero is about to save the....some arsehole five rows down starts to fricking chat away and ruins the entire effect. That same sin is committed by the Polish lektor but committed each and every day. I call on all expats based in Poland: Let us track down the nefarious Polish lektor and put an end to his misery-making power.

For the confused, Polish TV and cinema mostly eschews dubbing or sub-titling foreign films or TV shows in favour of having some guy (very rarely some gal) read dialogue just after it is spoken. The original dialogue is audible but quietened. To be clear, one person reads the text for all parts of the film or show. All. Whether of the opposite sex or not.

Poles tend to love the lektor. A poll I found on the internet showed that only 19% of Poles would prefer subtitles to the lektor. One Polish forum I found saw broad support for the lektor over subtitles or dubbing since no one wants to "read a show" and dubbing was deemed poorly done.

Fair enough. But what about the disruption?

When I ask my Polish friends how in the hell they can even follow the plot, most say the lektor becomes invisible. He sort of installs himself in the brain and the text is read out and understand almost sub-consciously.

Sounds easy enough. But I have tried this trick. I just can't stop listening to the original person speak English. Usually, I'll start following the lektor, but then naturally start trying to listen to the actual speech, I'll not hear something, I'll try to figure out where the lektor is, get lost, the scene changes, I've missed something, then I turn the channel.

The lektor is not as much of a problem these days as he was. The interwebs and digital TV mean you can pretty much watch a show in any language you want any time you want.

But this does not account for the educational damage done by the lektor. Sure, it's easier to listen than read subtitles. But Poland's two education ministers in 2008 said they wanted to encourage TV to add subtitles in order to help Poles learn foreign languages. The lektor thus stops learning.

I say this motion should be re-heated -- nooo, this is not selfish -- and all TV should be subtitled.