Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Why I hate Paulo Coelho

If you have ever met me in person you should know that I am a milliant Paulo Coelho hater. What is it about Paulo Coelho that evokes such strong emotions from within me? The simple answer is I hate Paulo Coelho because he is a bad writer. While this is true, it doesn't quite explain the repulsion. There are after all hundreds of bad writers – see Dan Brown, Nora Roberts or Danielle Steel – yet I let them be.

I didn't fully understand why either until I became familiar with the concept 'literary fiction'. I used to be put in a very awkward position when people asked what kind of books I read; thrillers or romance novels, or crime stories. And I would always say something along these lines:
"Well, I don't really read genre books so much, I read the, you know, proper books, like, er...good

Suddenly I’m walking on thin ice .

Now I can just say 'literary fiction' and avoid the risk of offending people. Yes, I might sound a little pretentious but people would just assume I am more into a lack of plot and that would be that.

What does this all have to do with Paulo Coelho? Well, I have realised the problem I have with Paulo Coelho is that he pretends to be literary fiction. Whereas Danielle Steel or Dan Brown resigned themselves to provide us with mindless entertainment and are free of any pretences that they give us anything more than that, Coelho is duping us into believing that he is revealing some great philosophical truths.

People with no literary education read things like „One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving.” or "Waiting hurts. Forgetting hurts. But not knowing which decision to take is the worst of suffering." and convince themselves that they are dealing with a literary genius.

Then they go and say that Paulo Coelho changed their lives, that The Alchemist is the most important book they have read. And I can't listen to this because it is hurting my ears. I try to fight and say that Coelho just took some Hallmark cards and some well known fables, mixed them together thus produced a bastard offspring that he brazenly called literature. And then they say I just didn't understand it!

How can you NOT understand Coelho? His books are as complicated as shoelaces. Anyone above the age of three should be able to get them.

Then I say "So you believe that 'when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve

"Well, let me break this down to you - it's bollocks."

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Gam Zeh Ya'avor

Over the last couple of weeks when work was barely bareable I had to keep reminding myself of this phrase: Gam Zeh Ya'avor - "This too shall pass".
The phrase as such is probably the most universal sentence in the world. It always true.
The old Jewish tale has it that a king (King Solomon as some versions want it) ordered a ring to be made - a ring that would have magical powers to make a sad person happy and a happy person sad.
Finally he was presented with a ring that had engraved: "This too shall pass (away)".

How fitting, thought the King.

I always thought that looking at such a ring too much could drive one crazy. You're sad, you look at it, you realise it is only temporary so you cheer up, then you look again and learn that 'this too shall pass' so you sink into depression but then you look again... and so on. Before you know it, you have developed bipolar personality disorder.

The only solution to thus created conundrum lies in another saying, a Latin one this time:
Carpe diem.

So carpe diem, everyone.

But be careful, don't follow the mischevious abberation of Carpe Diem: "Live everyday like it's your last".
Please don't. Don't live everyday like it is your last. If everyone lived everyday like it's their last, the world would succumb to utter chaos in less than twenty-four hours. No one would eat healthy food, go to work, pay the bills, save money or obey the law. And certainly no one would do the dishes.

Now back to "This too shall pass" - Moving Tales is preparing an animated, interactive version of this tale, so watch that space. Meanwhile you can buy their beautifully done "The Unwated Guest". Have a look at the trailer:

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Disney, you chauvinist pig

I have been operating in my militant feminist mode recently. It was initially prompted by reading Italo Calvino's classic "If On A Winter's Night A Traveller" which I found to be sexist and proceeded to let my opinions be known on goodreads here.

The following rant was initially generated by this book. I have not read of course as I don't have time for such things, but I read the reviews. The book makes a shocking discovery that most Disney princess fairy tales are sexist.
It reminded me of how shocked I was when I discovered that myself at the tender age of 8.

So princesses, eh? What do they do in Disney films? Not much really. They pretty much wait for their prince charming. They sleep or they are locked somewhere, sometimes they trade in their voice for a chance to be with their prince (vide: Little Mermaid). Ah, who cares for the voice? It is not like they are going to seduce their prince through a stimulating conversation. They have the looks, and when you have the looks, you just need to sit there patiently and good things will come to you (though be warned, occassionally it might take up to 100 years). Disney princess love their princes becuase they are princes and they are handsome. And princes love their princesses because they are young and beautiful, therefore they are good.

The antagonist is usually an old, ugly woman (therefore evil, because there is hardly a greater crime that a woman can commit than be ugly and old).
Of course men can still be good when they are ugly (like the Hunchback of Notre Dame), or even bad when they are handsome. Such freedom is not allowed for women.
If being pretty is the only way for a Disney female to achieve anything then we can hardly be surprised that certain ones would go the extra mile and try to kill off any woman who is prettier than them (vide: Stepmother in Snow White).

It was only in 1991 that Disney finally started to catch up with the times a little. In 1991 they produced my favourite Disney film - Beauty and the Beast. It became my favourite long before I declared myself a feminist or even knew what that meant. All I knew was that in that film I had a heroine I could identify myself with as it was extremely hard for me to identify myself with someone who did nothing and didn't seem to have any personality. It was like identifying yourself with a chair or a broom stick.
And here comes Belle. She is smart, she reads books, she takes care of her father (i.e. she is good for real, not just because she is pretty), and she hates a certain handsome chauvinist pig, who by the way is the antagonist in the film. Gaston is his name and he is every Disney princess dream come true. I mean he is handsome and muscular and all the girls in the village want him bad. What's not to love. However, Bella does not give a rat's ass and prefers to read books.
When she meets her 'prince charming' it is not love from the first sight. They actually get to know each other first and THEN they develop feelings. The Beast doesn't fall in love with Bella because she is pretty. Though, I am sure that doesn't hurt but still he considers her personality first. It was a very revolutionary and unprecedented approach for Disney. If that wasn't enough, it is Bella who has to save her father (at least twice) and her man. She saves them! You go, girl!

Sunday, 23 January 2011

The Art of Illustration

There was a time in my life - about a year ago - when I fancied becoming an illustrator. Sitting at home drawing and not having to speak to people for days seemed like a perfect job for me. Sadly, I had to abandon this project when I realised I can't really draw. Of course, there are plenty of illustrators who can't really draw or paint and it doesn't stop them but I believe that if you want to be an illustrator you need to be as good as Norman Rockwell.
I was just about to ramble about the dying art of illustration and how no one cares anymore but it is not all true. People still care and people still make great art.

Yesterday I went to see a great exhibition of Norman Rockwell's work in Dulwich Picture Gallery. If you live in London, do yourself a favour and go see it. Norman Rockwell was an illustrator who was more of a photo journalist before photos became what they are now. He is an author of a few iconic illustrations like my favourite one:

called "A problem we all live with" - it's a portrait of Ruby Bridges walking to school on the first day of racial school integration. She is guarded by marshalls. You can totally see it winning Wordpress Photo (provided it wasn't painted).
This is the stuff that Rockwell really wanted to draw and paint but, as we all, he needed to make a living, so he will also be remembered for tons of idealised scenes of American life so beloved in the 50s.

He still managed to insert some humour and keen social observation.

Another favourite:

While we are on illustration, I would like to mention the New Yorker whose covers have been examples of great illustration for a hundred years almost.
You can view almost all of them here (up to 2007). The remaining ones are available at the New Yorker's website. It is good to see one magazine still doing it. I would like to subscribe to it and then have it lying about at my flat so I can come across as classy and sophisticated.

Two more things I would like to mention while I have your attention.

Illustration Friday - this is a project anyone can participate in, professionals as well as amateurs. Every Friday a new theme is announced and for a week everybody can post their own interpretations of the theme. It's a sea of creativity. An ocean even. And great fun too.

Polska Ilustracja dla dzieci - is a Polish website (but it's all about the pictures, so it doesn't matter) about Polish children's books illustration.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Modern Art

Of all the things modern, modern art makes least sense to me.

I grew up believing that art is something beautiful and something that not everyone could create. And then of course I was exposed to 'modern art' which could be anything. A piece of soap on a hook, for example. Or dog poo in a box. It doesn't matter that it is certainly not beautiful and that just about any human being could create it (with some help from a dog). What matters is the 'back story'. You need a back story - a full explanation of what your art is supposed to symbolise. Basically the main goal of modern art (and by that I mean mostly conceptual art) is to symbolise something. It could be anything but themes related to the state of society in 21st century are of course preferred, so if you can find something to symbolise loneliness of people in big cities, isolation, consumptionism, McDonald's, you have a winner.

Here is a perfect example of modern art:
A few months ago, a Chinese artist Ai Weiwei created an installation in Tate Modern that consisted of one hundred million porcelain sunflower seeds. Now, of course, this is 21st century and things are done differently these days, so he (like everybody else) outsourced his artmaking and had 1,600 Chinese artisans hand paint the sunflower seeds.
People were invited to roll around in Ai Weiwei's sunflower seeds while contemplating "the essence of his comment on mass consumption, Chinese industry, famine and collective work" (courtesy of Wikipedia).
It looked like this:

So yes, " mass consumption, Chinese industry, famine and collective work". However, in true spirit of postmodernism, I shall give it my own meaning. And what I think about this installation is this: "Oh my God, is this cool or what?" I don't know about you, but I am one of those people who like to stick their hands in that sort of thing, be it a bag or rice, lentils, beans or one hundred million hand painted porcelain sunflower seeds. By the powers granted to me by postmodernism I proclaim that the purpose of this installation is to allow me to give in to my fetishes. I suppose it means that it symbolises temptation.
Curiously, the visitors were soon banned from rolling around in sunflower seeds due to health hazards, which is in line with my 'temptation' interpretation.

The reason I remembered Ai Weiwei is that I read that his studio in Shanghai was demolished . Apparently, he didn't have all necessary construction permits, but we all know what that means. He should have stuck to making 'pretty things'.

Now, if you are interested in China and you'd rather read something serious and informative written by people who know what they are talking about, read this.

Also, if you think this whole post made little sense, I assure you it is nothing compared to some examples modern art.

Please list your favourite works of modern art in the comments section.

I completely forgot cross-blog self promotion. Now, if you want to see some hideous modern art made by yours truly go to Now I will be an artist

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Do You Think It's Funny

After my introductory post a certain ex-fling of mine said: "Sexy? Yes, that you are. But funny? I never really associated you with funny!" - a remark not only obviously rude, but also blatantly untrue. Of course, I am funny. I have been told by many people I am funny! I believe some even used the word 'hilarious' which, I admit, might have been a slight exaggeration. Don't take this away from me! Funny has always been my thing, before sexy was my thing. Yes, I am not an American slapstick comedy kind of funny. I'd like to believe my sense of humour is more subtle. In fact, as it turns out, it might sometimes be so subtle, that it goes entirely undetected.

This whole episode made me decide to investigate the whole matter more thoroughly. I have asked a whole bunch of people what they find funny and made a shocking discovery that different people find different things funny. As a matter of fact, some people laugh at things that to me are not funny at all! So here is a list of different funny things in the order of how funny I find them, starting with the least funny (i.e. not funny at all) to the most funny:

1) Little Britain - OK. I just don't get it. It's just men dressed up as women. And if they are not dressed up as women, they pretend to be gay... That's kind of... juvenile? And  Come Fly With Me is just the same, only also racist. I am sorry about the quality of the second video but if you live in UK you can watch this gem of a show in full on iplayer.

2) A couple of days a colleague of mine emailed me a video of a baby orangutan:

It made her "L O L", "absolutely hilarious". I admit it is a very cute orangutan (PS. for more cute baby animals of various species go to - ) but it is not really that funny, is it?
And it is not that I don't find animals funny. This dude is just hysterical:

3) Ben Elton - I have just finished reading 'Popcorn' (full review here) and even though it was a very interesting book I found myself laughing once in 330 pages which is just simply not good enough. Writers like him try very hard to be funny in every sentence, they can't write anything normally. Every sentence has to be a joke and no one has got that many jokes. I feel similarly about Jenny Eclair. I read two of her books and her constant attempts at humour made me feel really uncomfortable. Especially that her jokes were mostly about farting and other bodily functions, which would have been fine if I was a 13 year old boy.

4) Cyanide and Happines - we are slowly getting there. Cyanide and Happiness has its moments of brilliance, like here:

But sadly the brilliance sinks in the sea of mediocre.

Keep reading beacuse it gets funnier!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Books and Statistics

I spent countless hours thinking what my first post should be about. I was tempted to write about the capital punishment or human rights in China but certain people advised me to keep it light and entertaining. Thus I decided to write about books and statistics, because what's more entertaining than books and statistics, right?

If you are like me and like to read your books in an organised fashion, there is no better place for you to go than Goodreads allows you to catalogue all the books you have read, you are reading and you intend to read. You can rate and review them as well. Once you provide goodreads with all the necessary data you can clearly see when you read your books, how long it took you and even how long it was between the time you decided upon reading a book and the moment you actually read it. If you log in religiously for a year, goodreads will reward you with yearly statistics. Now you will know just how many books or pages (if this seems more relevant to you) you have read over the year and how many of them you rated with 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 stars. Do that for a few consecutive years and you can compare them and draw conclusions (ex. I shall be 125 years old when I finish 1001 Books to Read Before You Die). You can set yourself a yearly reading challenge (that usually is somewhere down the list of New Year's resolutions) and Goodreads will kindly keep track of it for you.

If this all sounds like heaven to you, you probably have some sort obsessive-compulsive disorder and you might want to see somebody about it. However, before you do, please log in to goodreads and become my friend here .

Now I meant to write about MY book statistics for 2010 but certain people told me to keep it short because people have a very short attention span these days. Also, I fear that many readers might not find it as fascinating as I do.

If you checked this post in hope to find some real statistics about books here they are:

1) 89.5% of people prefer to watching TV to reading books
2) On any given day 1 out of 5 people reading a book on public transport is reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy.
3) 115% teenage girls have read Twilight
4) Only one person in the world has read this book. Me.

Welcome to the Kinga Show

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Kinga Show!

The Kinga Show is a project to restore the good name of my name in UK and create a world wide phenomenon (because I like a challenge).

Quite frequently when I say my name is Kinga, I hear "Oh, like that girl from Big Brother who stuck a wine bottle down her...".

Not everyone says it, some people are too polite to bring it up and others simply too embarrassed to admit they watched the sixth series of Big Brother and remember the names of contestants five years later. However, the sad fact remains that when you type 'Kinga' into google, it immediately prompts you to type 'wine bottle'.

I have taken it upon myself to make sure that from here on in Kinga will be associated with intelligent, sassy, funny and an entirely different kind of sexy.

I would like to thank all the five people that have read this. I know who you are. Literally.

Stay tuned.