The Original Snakes on a Plane

It may seem tasteless to many of you, but I just had to share it. The lost Malaysian airplane story reminds me of an 1980s Polish-Soviet adventure-sci-fi film “The Curse of Snake Valley”.

It was, without doubt, inspired by Indiana Jones films: a Polish linguistics professor deciphers an ancient manuscript that promises “great power” to anybody who recovers a treasure from South-East Asian temple. He goes to recover it with the help of an aging French tough guy, who turns out to be a villain who wants the power to himself, and a tastelessly sexy female French journalist, who also turns out to be a villain working on behalf of a sinister organization, which – you guessed it – also wants to take over that mysterious power. The treasure turns out to be a biological weapon brought to Earth by aliens who have a thing for snakes (yet another Dr. Jones reference). When the first test of the weapon goes awry and kills the sinister organization’s boss, the new boss sends it for testing in a Pacific atoll, and the airplane that carries it disappears in the sky.

This is the Russian-dubbed version. You can see the airplane scene at 1:31:30.

Don’t have big expectations: The movie was voted in a poll in Poland as one of the worst Polish movies ever. It was, however, a huge hit with Soviet children back in 1988. I went to see it in the neighborhood cinema at least three times, and I had oh so many discussions with my friends about the deep meanings in its plot.

And, well, yes, it reminds of the odd Malaysian story. Can’t help it. At least it’s an opportunity to tell a strange little story from my Soviet childhood.

Miloopa in Unicode, ya mama

In my last day in Gdańsk i had a few Złoty left and there was a record store near the bus stop, so i spent the Złoty on CD’s. There’s only one Polish band with which i was actually familiar – Myslovitz, whose lovely song “The Sound of Solitude” was played quite a lot on MTV in the early 2000’s:

The original Polish version of the same song is just as nice:

After i got “The Best of Myslovitz” CD, i had money for a couple more. I didn’t have any time to search for anything in particular, so i just tried picking something with a nice cover and immediately came upon this:

the cover of the album "Unicode" by the band Miloopa. The letters in the word Unicode are made up of small symbols.
Miloopa - Unicode

A record with such a title cannot be bad, i thought, so i immediately got it. And indeed, it is very good. Miloopa‘s music strongly reminded of the Israeli band J.Viewz: a female singer with a nice voice, singing in English, mostly electronic beats, good for chillout. Probably every non-English-speaking country has such a band.

The last one i bought was a record named “No! No! No!” by a band called “No! No! No!“. It’s a rather conventional and good indie band, singing in Polish. The lyric sheet for one song literally cites the Wikipedia article Voight-Kampff machine – that couldn’t be more appropriate.

Swap languages

I returned from Wikimania 2010 in Gdańsk. Wikimania is the annual world convention of enthusiasts of Wikipedia and related projects. It was the first time i attended it. My reason to attend this time was that Wikimania 2011 is scheduled to take place in Haifa and i’m on the organization committee, but the event was so intense and fun, that i hope to attend it every year in the future.

The best part of Wikimania is meeting the people behind the Wikipedia accounts and the names on the mailing lists. One of the people whom i looked forward to meeting is Gerard Meijssen, one of the multilingualism gurus of Wikipedia.

Time permitting, i’ll write many more things about Wikimania, but i really had to reply to Gerard’s post about Google Translate. Gerard and i slept in the the same dormitory for the first days. The receptionists there, as well as at the other dormitory in which i slept later, didn’t know a word of English. Luckily, i know Russian, so Polish is not completely foreign to me, but for people without Slavic background it is indeed tough.

On the second day of Wikimania i passed by the receptionist on my way out. There was a Wikimedian who tried to explain something to her. And she didn’t understand. I offered my help. He said that he forgot his key inside the room. I explained it to her in half-Russian half-bad-Polish; she understood me, checked the room number and said that that room has a lock that doesn’t lock the room when the door is shut. I told it to the guy, but he probably didn’t quite understand me and tried to communicate with her again.

So she opened Google Translate on her desktop computer, carefully selected Polish as “from” and English as “to” and wrote something. He approached the computer, pressed the “Swap languages” button, so he would be able to write an answer in English and translate it into Polish; at that point the receptionist took the mouse from him and “helped” him: she selected English as “from” and Polish as “to”. She didn’t see that the “Swap languages” button already swapped languages. This ritual repeated several times. As far as she was concerned, she was an expert Google Translate user.

Eventually they succeeded at understanding each other and he found his key, but i was really baffled by this lesson in software usability.


Poland is paralyzed by unprecedented riots over … legalization of abortion … or trade unions … or something.

The news on all TV stations show people blocking streets and impossibly huge traffic jams.

A particularly dramatic shot showed a semitrailer getting out of the jam and desperately falling from a mountainous highway to the sea. The truck drowned, of course, but the driver got out somehow, and in an interview he said that he fully supports the protesters.

Interpol (Flash) wrote a song about it, called “What the Fuck?”

The great part about all of this is that since it came to me in a dream, i can perform this song as my own.