Friday, October 28, 2005
I wrote the last post on border control and I shall continue on the topic. One of the participants who came from Russia told me that she got this leaflet from the Polish consulate with the headline:"For young women travelling for non-touristic purposes". It was giving instructions what to do if you get pregnant "in professional circumstances" in Poland, what to do when marrying a Polish man and on legal consequences of prostitution. Sometimes I just find it difficult to tolerate this world.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Over dinner we had today a discussion on entering the European Union area. I felt ashamed and for a reason. I cannot imagine how it feels when you are treated at the embassy as a potential criminal. It is humiliating.
Well, I had my border incident today when I was travelling towards Krakow via Munich. I had a tight schedule (30 minutes for the change) so I started running the moment I got out of the bus at the terminal door. When I was getting on the escalator, some shouted HALT and grabbed my bag. This wifebeater-looking guy showed me a card indicating that he was from the police. This was the discussion.
- Ausweis! Passport!
- Well, uh, here.
- Why are you travelling from Amsterdam?
- I live there.
- And where are you going?
- To Krakow.
- How long are you going to stay there?
- Until Sunday.
- Are you visiting family?
- No, I am not Polish. I am Finnish. And I am travelling on business.
Then he grunted and gave me my passport back.
Hmm...maybe it was a standard check. But I can't help posing the following questions:
- Why did he pick the guy with the cap and backpack and not one of the businessmen?
- Why did it seem that he lost his interest when he found out I wasn't Polish but from a "safe" country like Finland?
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
I was on Monday in Helsinki for a brainstorming session on local government reform. During drinks we started talking about trust for the government. One of the participants in the discussion mentioned that in Britain people are not afraid of credit cards as much as of government forcing people to have IDs. The Finns commented by saying that in Finland there still is a strong belief in government knowing what is best for us.
It reminded me of a document that I saw last week at the Prix Europa television festival. The awarded British documentary is called The Power of Nightmares and it is about the philosophy behind radical Islam and Neoconservatism (Leo Strauss). I thought that the document - although I admit that there was a lot of research behind it - spreading the same virus it was criticising. It´s the same virus that is being spread by Da Vinci Code (which I have not read) and Michael Moore: the thinking that there is a great plan against us, that we should be afraid and we should beware. I think this scaremongering - even based very often on facts - is the most efficient force crumbling trust to your fellow beings. This creates the perfect environment for populism, isolationist politics and overprotection. As one of the foreign facilitators told us in Helsinki:"What does it tell about our society that on my plane to Helsinki there were fourteen people reading Da Vinci Code and half of the plane were reading tabloids?"
And to end with something completely different: I shaved my hair really short last week. I did not realise that everyone would be commenting it. I have been told that I look rough and of course, "different in some way". But the funniest comment was made by my French colleague:"You look like a petit eskimo." Haven´t heard that before.
p.s. One of my favourites won the IRIS prize for multicultural programmes in Prix Europa. It is done by a supernice Norwegian guy called Fridtjof and it is called King Hussain of Pakistan - Queen Asia of Norway. You should really make sure you see it. It is brilliant. The story description can be found from this site. If you happen to live in Amsterdam or nearby, you can see at Felix Meritis on November 26.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Same goes for entertainment. I cannot watch a film or a television show without paying attention to the ways gender is built. Don't get me wrong, I value highly this approach. I find myself ranting very often about the way women are shown merely as objects, preferably pretty objects. This goes especially for youth media where several tv series keep reproducing the stone age masculine and feminine behaviour patterns.
This all worked as an introduction to a positive experience from today. I saw a Finnish film called Tyttö sinä olet tähti (Girl you're a star) that had its premiere on Friday. It is a story of a rich girl called Nelli (played by the wonderful Pamela Tola) who wants to become an r'n'b star and therefore starts working on a demo with a hip hop producer Sune (street credible Samuli Vauramo). Youth film --> I do not need to tell you what happens between them.
I was expecting a lot from the film based on the critiques and also due to the fact that the set was designed by a friend of mine. But what really surprised me positively was the way how the role of Nelli was written. She was not a bimbo wanna-be idol but a girl who was able to stand up to the guys. She responded to sexist comments in a way that made the boys fall silent. Brillant piece of work. The scriptwriter Pekko Pesonen (also behind the wonderful Lapsia ja aikuisia film) had performed magnificently in showing a young woman with self-esteem who was equal to the guys. Really a film worth seeing.
Friday, October 21, 2005
The festival was an excellent reminder of the power of television and the need for public broadcasting. I saw only a minimal portion of the works but I was impressed especially by two programmes:
1. King Hussain of Pakistan - Queen Asia of Norway: Norwegian documentary of a Pakistani immigrant family where the father wanted to return back to Pakistan after living in Oslo for thirty years. The director got so close to the family, showed them with dignity and was able to capture how living in Norway has influenced the mother's way of understanding the possibilities and freedoms of women.
2. Islamic History of Europe: BBC Iraq reporter Rageh Omar explored the Islamic influence on European science and way of living before renaissance. As a London-born Muslim himself, Omar was able to use this travel to build an emotional commitment to the continent.
After every day there was a discussion on the programmes. It proved once again how there are massive amounts of people working in television who want to walk the extra mile, who have high professional journalistic standards and who care for their fellow human beings. And most of all - who are able to make interesting and entertaining programmes.
This is why I am easily irritated by overgeneralising comments on the state of today's television. As there are good and crappy medical doctors or newspapers or blogs, there is also good and crappy television.
Monday, October 17, 2005
During the last 1,5 years I have experienced cancellation of connecting flights with this company four times. I fly a lot but this is still a high number. Now my connecting flight to Berlin was cancelled.
The economic problems of SAS have been reported often. I can now understand why they have problems:
1. Their planes do not fly.
2. Their service sucks.
Today no one apologised for the cancellation. They gave no compensation for the time wasted. I miss an important meeting in Berlin because of them. I got no food coupons and no access to the lounge to work. They told me that they do not have to compensate a thing because the delay is less than four hours. I cannot believe that they can afford this with this competition between airlines.
From now on, I will avoid them as much as possible. I encourage others to do this as well. The people at the counter here were rude. I sent a furious email to them and I will publish the possible response in this blog.
I had SAS until now on my Happy Consumer list. This and the fact that even a glass of water on their flights costs something makes me reconsider heavily before flying with them again.
Saturday, October 15, 2005
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
The European Union has recently been shaken by several incidents questioning the whole concept of a joint economic area. The French wish that the EU would do more to protect jobs staying in France and the Swedes are furious to the Commission because of an incident where a Commissioner criticised Sweden for forcing a a Latvian company to follow Swedish labour regulations when working in Sweden.
I opened my email this morning and there was the daily news bulletin from EuObserver. One headline stated: "Brussels to press for fund to fight globalisation effects".
I was excited. The EU is living up to the European Dream and investing more on development aid. Well, how naïve can you be. Quote from EU Observer:
According to the commission's draft, the fund would extend to €7 billion for the seven-year period, plus €4 billion in reserve of the common budget. But a diplomat from one of the new member states suggested that the poorer countries viewed it with suspicion from the moment it was first put on the table. "It seemed like the fund was there to serve a few rich countries, while the poorer states had meant to be squeezed by strict rules that would make it hard for them to use all the money they are allocated", he said.
Without knowing all the details, I am pissed. It says in the news brief that the fund would be meant for helping "citizens affected by globalisation". And the feeling I tend to get is that this means people like French workers.
Geez. How blind can you be? Or to be more precise, how twisted can your priorities be? People most seriously affected by globalisation are - at least based on my judgement - totally somewhere else than on this continent. I am not sure if keeping jobs on this continent at any cost is the "European social model" that I want. To put it in the words of a US liberal development economist Jagdish Bhagwati on a lecture last year in Amsterdam:"Is there really someone saying that the Chinese or the Africans do not need these jobs more badly than Europeans?"
But I guess if you build high enough walls around Fortress Europe, you avoid the uncomfortable feeling of having to react to problems outside your own home base.
Sunday, October 09, 2005
I have now been living in Amsterdam for nine months but I still have the feeling of being a newcomer. I totally love exploring new things. It is getting trickier for my guests every time because as time goes by I have more and more things to show. It was so much easier in February when I had ten things to show. Well, I have now decided to adopt a mentality of surrendering to the notion that this city is too multifaceted in order to be experienced totally in an extended weekend.
Antti had taken a course in architecture where they praised the new islands of Amsterdam. I am grateful for this because without that encouragement we would not have explored Zeeburg with such depth and passion. And I must say, I would not mind living there. Especially Scheepstimmermanstraat is amazing. The narrow buildings are all done by top of the class architects in a variety of styles (see picture). Most of them have roof balconies and a possibility to have your own boat in the front. The interior designs are combinations of good taste and signs of life. In most houses you can see children and we could witness families having dinner or children drawing on the street with chalk. Definitely worth going.
But that was not all. We enjoyed excellent Ethiopian-Eritrean, Western, Indonesian, Turkish and Japanese delicacies, went clubbing, did some shopping saw superb press photography. My favourite guests are people like Antti: they are willing to just hang out but they also take an active role in deciding what to do (i.e. not like a sheep following the shepard)
I love Amsterdam. I really do. It is a lively village with a kind face.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
My fascination on British politics has always been greater than towards U.S. politics. Recently though, I must admit, the tragic incidents in Southern states have triggered a lively debate concerning the state of the country. One article that I loved was Donna Brazile´s - the head of Al Gore´s presidential campaign in 2000 - article in the Washington Post where she stated that she will rebuild with Mr. Bush. I heard Ms Brazile live in New York last November and must say that she did not strike me as a pro-Bush person. But this article from her was really a proof of the power of the American dream.
Well, on my regular round in the blogosphere this morning I ended up to a site where they published Al Gore´s speech on the state of American television from yesterday. Absolutely magnificent speech. As someone stated on the site: "I would have voted for this man."
Gore started recently his own news station, Current TV. In the article he shares his concern on the power of television in the American society. He states the same thing as for instance Oliver Marchart: TV of today does not fill the criteria of a public sphere. "The world of television makes it virtually impossible for individuals to take part in what passes for a national conversation today", Gore says. He pleas for a differentiation in entertainment and news based on the crucial role of news in a democracy. Really worth reading.
There are two different scripts in the media debate at the moment. The other is the this one advocated by Gore comparing the current state to the history and criticising the power structures and undemocracy. The other is the optimistic one talking about blogs. The thing I like in Gore - compared to many others with the similar worry - is that he has made an initiative to create something new using the most powerful medium of today.
p.s. Gore was always left to the shadow of Clinton. I honestly would have favoured him on the recent BBC list of the ideal team to lead the world instead of Bill C.
p.p.s. In a recent post I revealed my results from this politics test. It said Democrat. In that sense this adoring of Gore´s message is presumably understandable.
p.p.p.s. I love my iPod. I realised today that I would have made an excellent southern American (meaning US here). My iPod played Elvis´ Burning Love which is very near to country in several senses. I must have seemed silly humming the song while cycling. But at this age I may admit that all my music does not need to be minimalistic and cool.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
The Guardian has been one of my favourite newspapers of all time. I really see them as a quality newspaper. I attended last week a seminar where one of their editors told that they wish to promote civilised conversation in the society.
Well, this article by Emma Brockes from today really makes me doubt what they mean with civilised conversation. I find it difficult to understand that something like this can be written in a quality newspaper. The Nazi card is so easy to draw. But if you do it, you should really pay attention to your argumentation.
p.s. To make it clear: I do not agree with the policy of the Austrian government to hault the start of the negotiations.
Sunday, October 02, 2005
The canal rides start from the Central Station. If you look at the picture, they take off from the left corner. The bike thingie there is the free bike shed at the station. Every single tourist I have met has commented it. I personally love the fact that in Amsterdam a bike park is bigger than the car park.
I cycle everywhere in this city. One essential device on the bike is the bell used for letting the tourists know that a bike is approaching. There are a few different reactions.
1. Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned: Quite often Asian middle-aged men with a camera. They do an exaggerated leap to the side with the low volume soundtrack:"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry."
2. Bambi is my favourite film: Women of all ages, often seen in groups. Jump to the left, jump to the right, back to the left, again to the right. Soundtrack:"Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh my God, Oh." One of the trickiest groups for cyclists . Slalom is rather difficult as it is but even trickier if the poles keep moving.
3. They don't see you if you freeze: Middle-aged women. They completely stop where they are, hands pointing down. No sound and often even closed eyes.
4. Taxidriver is my favourite film: "What the F**k are you ringing that bell! Do you want to get beaten, eh?" I presume no reason to specify the gender. Potentially biggest risk for the cyclist.
5. I am, therefore I am: Middle-aged men torn away from their private cars. They seem to think that the bicycles are offending their private sphere. The only impact of ringing the bell is a comment to the spouse:"Another one of these. Just don´t mind him."
6. What a perfect day: Usually groups of women or couples spending a wonderful weekend in Amsterdam. The reaction to the bell is a smile and stepping aside. Soundtrack:"Sorry, dear. Oh, darling, this biking culture is so sweet. I wish we had it back in the States as well."
Ok, it's 12.30. Time for breakfast.