Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Tragic, just tragic

Originally uploaded by shielaonthepath.
My morning started with Kim Jong-Il. The first film of the day was Friends of Kim, a reportage of the solidarity trip of the Korean Friendship Association to North Korea.

It reminded me in many ways of the stories I have heard of the Finnish solidarity trips to Moscow during the Soviet Union. I know that for instance the leaders of the National Union of Students in Finland travelled to Moscow 1-2 times a year.

The North Korea shown in the documentary seemed bizarre. Stiff with rhetorics not from this decade. Marching and megaphones.

First it seemed highly amusing. But then I started feeling sad. As a Dutch participant of the trip phrased it:"It seems odd. But I get away after 12 days." The fact that a great number of the population is starving is much more tragic and sad than the parades are funny.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Europe on BBC

The Helsinki Cathedral
Originally uploaded by amsterboy.
Sunday evening. I was just back from the IDFA festival. After a film about a man whose mother was killed by a suicide bomber in Israel I felt like consuming something a bit lighter. Click..Zap..Dutch commercial channel Veronica showing Man In The Iron, zap..another video of the rap artist Ali B on the Dutch music channel The, zap..a train departing from a German station and then a text "Battle for Europe". Halt.

BBC's current affairs programme Panorama dove into a difficult subject, i.e. different views on Europe. The journalist gathered examples and interviewed politicians while he was travelling through Britain, France, Germany, Lithuania and Finland. Of course his this-is-the-Europe-Tony-Blair-wants comments were slightly simplifying but the programme kept the viewer watching. He interviewed for instance British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, trade minister of France (a clear look-alike of West Wing's CJ Cregg), new German interior minister Wolfgang Schäuble, former Finnish prime minister Esko Aho, Finnish foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja, Lithuanian film studio boss, German family buying a new Volkswagen, French cheese producer etc. Marvellous programme.

His trip ended in Helsinki. I guess we Finns need someone to come from the outside to tell us that free-of-charge education and a genuine knowledge-based society together with a strong welfare system are marvellous things. His trip to Finland was introduced by saying:"There is a place, however, where strong welfare state meets a liberal and innovative industry. This is why I continued my trip to the small country in the North, Finland." I must say that I was proud when I heard the following comments:
"It is often portrayed as if competitiveness and welfare would be alternatives to each other. I disagree." - Esko Aho
"In Finland everyone contributes to the welfare state and everyone benefits from it."
- Erkki Tuomioja

Sunday, November 27, 2005

It would be so much easier if I would not know

Originally uploaded by lilypink.
I have taken a week off work to attend the IDFA festival which is one of the biggest and most important documentary festivals in the world. Most defined views I will save for articles but one reaction on my first documentary is something that I wish to share.

I saw a documentary on global food production called We Feed The World. Director Erwin Wagenhofer showed the absurdity of global food production. Just few facts: the amount of bread thrown out in Vienna daily would be enough to feed Graz, the second biggest city of Austria. Rainforests are cut d
own in Brazil in order to produce soya for European chickens.

Yes, chicken. I remember a friend of mine saying that she stopped eating meat when she saw pictures from a sausage factory in a children's programme. In We Feed The World they had horrible pictures of poultry production in Austria. It had more in common with production of bolts than farming. Small animals were packed, transported so cruelly that I could not watch it without tears. It was a concentration camp for chicken. I am honestly considering cutting chicken out of my diet if I don't know how the animals have been treated.

The fundamental question that I was left pondering was who is responsible and how things can be changed. Blaming the CEO of Nestlé is far too simplifying. I think much bigger demons are the subsidies our dear union is using.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Woke up late

Originally uploaded by GermanPickle.

A Finnish friend of mine who is working in Brussels was visiting me last weekend. He was totally excited. The reason was something you would not expect: talk radio. He had found the world of podcasts.

I decided to give it a try encouraged by his enthusiasm. I clicked the ´Podcasts´ button of my iTunes. I wrote YLE to the search field and selected from the list the following:
Kulttuurilehtikatsaus (review on cultural magazines)
Aikakauslehtikatsaus (review on weeklies and other magazines)
Kotimaan viikkopeili (weekly update on domestic politics)

It was really simple. The system now updates the latest versions to my iTunes and then to my iPod. I listen the five-minute programmes while cycling to work. A new world has opened for me.

I know I am embarrasingly late with this finding. I also started now with a ultra-safe option, i.e. Finnish public broadcaster. Maybe in a few weeks I will have the courage to experiment. But there are so many options. Only if someone could recommend great podcasts.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Fellow human beings for sale

Bodies for Sale
Originally uploaded by
J A R E D.
Two weeks ago I was taking people around the centre of Amsterdam. They wanted to see the Red Light District. I am not quite sure why I decided to follow their wishes. So we went there.

I find it disgusting. I think the Red Light District shows a horrible side of men. You see groups of men drooling for the women in the windows. The area does not make me giggle, which seems to be very common. You can think I am patronising or condescending but I just feel pity. And anger.

Last weekend I saw a group of four people in the area, 1 woman and 3 men. The dialogue went as follows:
Man:"Uh, I am not sure if I..."
Woman:"She´s nice, ain´t she? Good tits and all? Don´t you boys agree? Go on, John, we´ll wait for you in the bar."

In this sense I think the Finnish League of Feminists Unioni have done an excellent act with their campaign Kaupan (For Sale). They invited 17 graphic designers to make posters on trafficking in human beings. The posters can be seen on a website and they have also been exhibited at a metro station, at a gallery and on the streets.

The facts are shocking:
- 800 000 - 900 000 people per year (UN figure)
- 80 % for prostitutes
- does not require crossing borders, the domination continues inside the country, usually people are lured into Western countries
- half of the victims are children
- profitable business: women are bought with 1250-1500 dollars and sold with 250-350 dollars per hour
- most profitable field of organised crime after drugs and arms
- Finland is a cross-over country on the way to the West for hundreds of people per year

Sometimes the world seems to be a bit too cruel to bear.

Friday, November 18, 2005

One Minutes

Claymation - Through a lens
Originally uploaded by afkatws.
My last weekend was brilliant. We had the biggest event of the year, One Minutes Festival, here in Amsterdam. The ECF is responsible for the Junior category which means videos done by 12-20-year-old Europeans. The whole project is about giving a voice for youngsters. We invited the finalists from Serbia, Turkey, Sweden, Belgium, The Netherlands and Moldova to enjoy a weekend in Amsterdam and take part in the gala on Sunday evening. I and they had a great time.

As part of the programme we organise yearly workshops across Europe where youngsters work with film students for five days to make their video of one minute. In 2005 we did a workshops for instance with Moroccan youth here in the Netherlands, with orphans in Istanbul and with youngsters in Moldova.

I am really proud of the project. Have a look at the One Minutes Jr site and especially the winners, Andreas Öhman (Sweden) and Ionela Costachi (Moldova). Would be great to hear comments and even ideas on where these films could be shown. In 2006 we are going to invest more on civil society partnerships.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

All about the money

five euro cents
Originally uploaded by pajp.
Situation 1: I moved to Amsterdam in January this year. It was my first day at work. A Dutch colleague of mine and I headed to the nearby supermarket Albert Heijn to buy something for lunch. At the counter she threw her set of keys on the line along with the groceries. I must have looked puzzled because she continued:
"Tommi, first thing you have to do here is get your bonus card. You save money every day."
We had basically met three hours before.

Situation 2: A young Dutch couple in front of me at the Albert Heijn. The young man asked for the small plastic bags that you use for vegetables and fruit. They started packing their stuff in them in the end using eight bags because they kept breaking. They were free of charge, a normal plastic bag would have cost twenty cents.

Welcome to the Netherlands.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Providers of distorted images

War on Terror
Originally uploaded by
A week ago I was having lunch with a friend of mine who is a media researcher. She said something that I have not dared to say out loud until now:"I don´t how much of this mass media bitching of the blogosphere I can handle."

I must say that I agree fully. This common (I am not saying overall) tone is something that at least makes it difficult for me to see blogs as yet an alternative for mass media. I find it truly irritating every time I read this general nagging about mass media lying to us. It often seems to me as if the people who complain that the mass media simplifies the blogs into raging activism, are guilty of same kind of simplifications. One can see a lot of this on the comment sections of the blogs by big newspapers.

When journalism is considered, it often seems to me like some bloggers see all mass media journalists as pure evil distorters. Or I am not sure how the logic works.

And to play my cards openly: yes, I regularly contribute to mass media publications. Quite a number of my friends are journalists working for big television stations or newspapers. And that is why I dare to state that I know what kind of shitty censorship one can face. I admit it happens. But I also see more and more often journalists who walk the extra mile for the truth or who feel a great responsibility for providing their audience with accurate analysis. Populist simplifications to both directions upset me.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Reasons to love Istanbul

Whirling dervishes
Originally uploaded by amsterboy.
"I wonder if you will fall in love with it like all the other people I know who have been there."
"Well, to start with, it is messy and loud."

Comments of some friends of mine raised my expectations quite high. This was my first visit to the Turkish capital.

A city divided to a European and Asian side by the Bosphorus. A city that has four times the population of my home country. A city that is now as hip as a city can be.

Just before travelling I finished a paper on Turkey and EU for the British Council Finland and Crisis Management Initiative which is probably going to be published next week. In the paper I reflected the image of Turkey also from a highly personal perspective. Prior to my visit I knew very few Turks and very little about the Turkish culture. My experience from the past weekend attending the conference of Eurozine makes me want to return as soon as possible.

- It is different. I did not find the time to go to the Asian side which is reason enough to go back. I saw a lot of things that were clearly recognisable but for example the gender roles are something that I do not yet understand in depth. The whirling dervishes (see pic) were something totally magical and mystical. And I want to understand the Atatürk myth better.
- The clubbing scene in Istanbul is superb. As a German friend of mine described it: it is like Berlin in the beginning of 1990s. You have to know where to go because many of the places are on small alleys and do not have names or even signs. One evening we climbed seven floors of stairs and ended to a simple roof terrace with windows only made of plastic and an amazing view over the city. On another evening I found myself from an electro club in an old store.
- The food. Istanbul is a heaven for someone who does not eat meat. I have not had that good vegetarian food and so excellent desserts for a while.
- The people. I met great people organising independent festivals, working as journalists, editing pop culture magazines or publishing poems and short stories written by prisoners. I felt a sense of freshness and a drive that I often lack in Finland.

Yes, Istanbul is chaotic and loud. Yes, there are too many policemen on the streets equipped with machine guns. Yes, based on the centre it seems like 85 % of the population would be young men. No, it is not the safest city to walk on the streets at night. But its five-day flirtation worked and Istanbul has a grip on me. I want to understand this fascinating city at least a little better.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Response from SAS (see 17.10. post)

Originally uploaded by
As promised here is the response from SAS. They tell in the letter written in Finnish that they have a policy of offering the passenger food and covering telephone costs if the delay is over two hours. They ask me to send my bank account number. I find it still bad service that you have to send a complaint before they offer the compensation. I have taken the contact details out of the email. What was nice of them that the answer came in Finnish and there was a personal signature in the end. These have been erased.

Date: Wed Nov 02, 2005 05:56:26 AM PST
Subject: Palautteenne

Hyvä Tommi Laitio

Kiitos palautteestanne koskien matkaanne Berliiniin 17.lokakuuta. Pahoittelemme vilpittömästi peruutuksesta ja uudelleenreitityksistä Teille aiheutunutta harmia ja haittaa.

Lento SK679 Kööpenhaminasta Berliiniin 17.lokakuuta peruuntui lennolle suunnitellun koneen teknisen syyn takia. Valitettavasti varakonetta ei reitille saatu lyhyellä varoitusajalla. Kansainvälisten kuljetusehtojen mukaan lentoaikataulut eivät ole taattuja. Lennon viivästyessä tai peruuntuessa lentoyhtiö on velvollinen reitittämään matkustajan lentolipussa mainittuun määränpäähän parhaalla mahdollisella tavalla Kansainvälisiä Kuljetusehtoja ja EU:n 17.02.2005 voimaan astuneita sääntöjä noudattaen. Lentoyhtiö ei vastaa jatkokuljetuksista eikä ole velvollinen korvaamaan menetettyä työ- tai vapaa-aikaa, ohjelmaa määränpäässä, tai muuta taloudellista menetystä.

Tänä vuonna voimaan tulleet uudet EU säännöt ovat vaikuttaneet SAS:n, Blue1:n ja muiden vakiintuneiden reittilentoyhtiöiden toimintaan pääsääntöisesti ylivaraustilanteiden korvaussummiin, jotka ovat 17.2. lähtien huomattavasti korkeammat kuin aikaisemmin. Viivästyksen ollessa yli kaksi tuntia, mutta alle viisi tuntia, tulee lentoyhtiön huolehtia matkustajasta, eli tarjota aterioita ja virvokkeita kohtuullisessa suhteessa odotusaikaan, tarjota kaksi ilmaista puhelua, telexiä tai telekopio- tai sähköpostiviestiä. Matkustaja voi perua tai keskeyttää matkansa lennon myöhästyessä yli viisi tuntia, mikäli matkan tarkoitus jää tämän takia toteuttamatta. Silloin matkustaja reititetään kotikentälleen ja hän on oikeutettu lentolipun hyvitykseen. Paluumatkalla matkan tarkoitus on jo toteutunut, joten siinä vaiheessa matkustajalla ei ole oikeutta lentolipun takaisinmaksuun tai uuteen matkaan, eikä erilliseen rahakorvaukseen.

Business Loungeen eivät matkustajat valitettavasti poikkeustilanteiden ja uudelleenreititysten osalta pääse muutoin kuin lentäessään Business lipulla tai omatessaan Star Alliance Gold kortin.

Korvaamme Teille mielellämme peruutuksesta aiheutuneet suorat kulut, kuten puhelin- ja ruokailukulut kuitteja tai kohtuullista arviotanne vastaan. Kuitit ja tilinumeron voitte toimittaa meille.

Vielä kerran pahoittelemme tapahtuneesta Teille aiheutunutta harmia ja vaivaa. Palautteenne on huomioitu ja rekisteröity seurantaamme varten. Toivomme luottamuksenne SAS:n ja yhteistyökumppaneiden palveluihin edelleen säilyvän ja saavamme toivottaa Teidät tervetulleeksi lennoillemme taas pian uudelleen.
SAS Group Company"

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

They do not want to integrate

G8 Geneva 2003
Originally uploaded by grohlicm.
I got my television working yesterday. Or to be honest, it was my flatmate who bought a new cable. So today I had a joyful moment with BBC news and Thai food from Bird Snackbar just around the corner.

First the positive: BBC News started with global warming. Excellent move. You do not see that too often.

And then: riots in Paris. Highly disturbing. I have seen lately a few documentaries of the cités outside Paris. They are huge suburbs with mostly African first and second generation immigrants. The violence has continued now for five days and yesterday a 15-year-old and a 19-year-old boy were electrocuted to death.

The wanna-be president and Minister of Interior Affairs Nicholas Sarkozy said today in a press conference that even if the French society has generously offered holidays for the youngsters, some of them do not want to integrate. Sarkozy also called the protesters scum.

That must get him some votes from the white and the fearful. But this justification for violence totally misses the point: the fatal mistake of locating immigrants to one area and then just looking away. It is not like the problems appeared out of the blue. During the last few years there have been series of rapes in the cités and even a young girl was burned to death just recently. And now they want to solve the integration problem by sending more and more police there with teargas. My question would be: who is it here that does not want to integrate?