Thursday, March 30, 2006

Political art is poor art

Akram Khan & London Sinfonietta
Originally uploaded by
Sometimes I just love Flickr. I went to a concert yesterday and I found the concert poster from Flickr.

I thought it was time to test one of the best concert halls of the world, Het Concertgebouw, and this event sounded interesting. Concertgebouw is not usually a venue for dance.

Yesterday evening the hall was full with even the mayor of Amsterdam present. The evening started with a LENGTHY xylophone piece. Drifted off, must say. The second piece was Steve Reich´s Different Trains that combines violins, cellos and quotes from people who have experienced the war. The music imitated the rhythm of the speech. The evening ended with Akram Khan´s dance performance.

Hmm...the evening was an example of what happens when artists start their work with the advocacy message and not with the artistic passion. Reich´s Different Trains was highly pretentious and music-wise not very clever. Akram Khan´s group consisted of three male dancers. I raised my eyebrows when the Asian dancer was performing Asian-influenced dance and the black dancer had a clear African dance influence in his movement. In the end they ended up doing the same movement.

The dancers were technically skillful but the words multicultural and tolerance could have been printed on their shirts, that is how obvious the message was.

This sort of art just does not work for me. I would make an analogy with Michael Moore -like documentarists where the artistic quality gets stomped by the political manifestation.

But at times it is nice to see something you do not like in order to clarify your own taste.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Good day

I am proud to be working on theoneminutes project (more precisely with theoneminutesjr). I started my morning today with two videos. Have a look (you need QuickTime). There are much more serious ones as well but these ones are bound to make you laugh:
Avi Krispin: Steven´s Pitch
Simone Lecca: Souvenir.
Mondays could be worse.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

From gender to age

Originally uploaded by Adnan Yahya.
I have been ranting lately on gender. Time to move on: age.

I enjoy greatly the blog of the Helsinki city politics journalist Jarmo Huhtanen of Helsingin Sanomat. He had managed to upset the leader of the social democrat group by pointing out that their youngest council member is 36, youngest committee chair is 58 and average age of the council group is 54.

The leader of the social democrats, Maija Anttila, blaims Huhtanen for "age racism". Anttila writes:"I think it is unfair to evaluate a group only based on age in political life when that is not what matters but actions."

Sometimes I just can't believe these people.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Dutch superiority and sensitivity

Originally uploaded by ~srozekrans.
I fly a lot for my work. During the last 1,5 years or so I have preferred KLM (Royal Dutcn Airlines) cos they are reasonably priced, the service is OK and - most important - they are usually on schedule. Unlike SAS. And best of it all, they returned alcohol for their European flights lately.

Due to my loyalty, I got a letter from the airmiles programme, Flying Blue. The slogan: Distinguishes you from the others. Talk about attitude.

When you open the brochure you see a picture of a man passing line of people waiting. On another page he is walking up the stairs to the supposedly Mediterranean holiday house.

In both pictures the man is white and wearing a suit. In the first picture he passes a sensitive-looking guy in a sweater (the gay), a woman (of course a big cleavage, a short skirt and high heels), a black man, another woman (short skirt, high heels and a polo), and Asian business man and another woman.

My God. I wonder what was the gender and ethnic background of this AD and copywriter..It was true what they wrote in a lifestyle magazine lately: No more metrosexuality. Man is back.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Notions on gender

Britney Spears
Originally uploaded by chunkysalsa.
I do not know what is the motivation for this post. But, well, well-thought motivations often spoil the fun. So few things on gender from the last days:

1. Jon Stewart opening the Academy Awards: "Ladies, gentlemen...uh...Felicity."

2. Britney (see pic): she stares at me with wide eyes in the new Dolce & Gabbana ad every day I cycle to work. At least I think it is Britney. She is my mark for "2 more minutes and I get my morning coffee".

3. A foreign colleague (woman) complained a few days back about the lack of imagination or class that Dutch women express in the way they dress. Then she cycled to work on a windy morning with a huge scarf instead of a jacket and understood where the quest for practicality stems from.

4. Dutch men seem to have either a massive amount of hair or they lose it at a really early age.

5. On a recent flight between Copenhagen and Amsterdam I was the shortest man (by far) on the plane. And most of the men were blond. As a friend of mine said:"It's all that cheese and milk."

6. Moslim Madonna, Asian J-Lo (scroll down the page to De Moslim Madonna and watch Deeyah's video). Hmm.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Orient Expressions

Orient Expressions
Originally uploaded by
I must admit: I have never been very good with concerts. I don´t know how to behave in them. I usually end up somewhere between a rock police and minimal movement.

After my visit to Istanbul I have been listening a lot of Turkish modern music. I met people from the record label Double Moon in Istanbul and got a pile of CDs. One of the bands, Orient Expressions, performed yesterday here in Amsterdam in Paradiso.

Super. It reminded me a lot of the Finnish band RinneRadio but with a Turkish twist. I think I am going to start promoting Turkish modern pop (check for instance Replikas, Mercan Dede, Baba Zula). I have also started listening to Turkish kitschy pop (Hande Yener) at the gym (people in the clubs went totally wild when her hit Kelepce started - yes, people singing along and jumping up and down).

The film on the music scene of Istanbul,Fatih Akin´s Crossing the Bridge, will open in the cinemas of Amsterdam next week. The soundtrack of that film is great.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Mojito Method

Originally uploaded by
First of all, the reading tip of the day: my last column in Ellit about the way Finns look at the Baltics. It was inspired by theoneminutesjr workshop in Latvia. The videos are online by the way.

And then, reckless life of the nearly-30s. I have been now on two Wednesdays in a row having cocktails. I must say, I love it. It reminds me of my holiday in Berlin some years back with all those cheap cocktails way too early in the afternoon. Or my sister´s wedding where the drink of the evening was mojito.

I think cocktails should be cheaper. Every day and every hour. On Wednesdays in this bar they cost five euros. Not bad, must say. And the mojito method works. Based on yesterday we came up with a great idea for the summer holiday (driving through Europe with friends) and felt absolutely fantastic while cycling to work this morning. I recommend this for everyone. Cocktails do you good.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Restful state of mind

Mixture of styles
Originally uploaded by amsterboy.
This was not what I was expecting in a city of 20 million people. I have not felt this peaceful and clear-headed in months. I am in Istanbul and I love it.

Yesterday I took a taxi to the other side of the Golden Horn, to the old quarters of Istanbul. I walked into Gülhane Park. After 10 minutes I found myself on top of a hill, with an amazing view over the Bosphorus. I ordered tea (tea and hot water correctly in separate cans) and just breathed. I took my notebook out of my bag and managed to conceptualise a plan for the future of theoneminutesjr. Something I was not able to do at the office with emails coming in and phone ringing.

I am staying in a decaying hotel in Taksim called Grand Hotel Londres. It was built in the end of the 19th century. Hemingway is one of the people who have stayed there. The first thing I heard when entering the lobby on Saturday was parrots.

Istanbul is excellent for shopping. For instance I found a great shop called Fabrica Features selling notebooks, bags and folders designed by the Benetton design and art centre. I have not found this brand in Amsterdam. I must say, I am now a proud owner of a funky notebook.

A while ago I walked into a garden, took off my shoes, ordered a coffee and a muffin. They are playing loungy jazz. I am sitting on pillows and doing my work emails. I love this city.

Istanbul seems like a city for wandering and exploring. You have to leave the main streets, take the next corner to the left and then maybe right and you might find the loveliest small shop or cafe. I am so fortunate that my work will bring me back in a few months.

p.s. Something that I noticed also on my first visit. 80 % of the people on the streets are men. Mostly young men in bigger groups touching each other or holding hands. The lack of women in public places feels odd.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

My input in Dutch democracy

Electronic Voting Machine
Originally uploaded by Nick Sãum.
The European Union is the reason for my restlessness today. Thanks to the EU, I was able to vote in the local elections of Amsterdam today. I am going to break a Finnish social code and tell how and what I voted.

I do not speak that good Dutch. I tried to watch a few election debates during the last few weeks. Results:
- all hosts are men
- all men in this country have curly hair
- the chair of Groen Links (Green Left) Femke Halsema looks very fresh and approachable
- all parties promise security and well-being

I was actually considering skipping voting but in the end could not pass the experience of voting using a machine. I pondered between PvdA (social democrats) and Groen Links. Neither of them is in the current government which is a major plus. Due to my problematic relationship with PvdA's Finnish sister party, I in the end could not vote for social democrats although their key figure in Amsterdam Lodewijk Asscher was critical towards the Red Light Disctrict (hooray!). I just cannot vote for preservationists.

So I went to the local gym hall to vote with my passport and the letter indicating my right to vote. I looked through the candidate lists and did not find familiar names. I actually thought of voting for a person with a funny name (this country does not run out of them...). Well, as I handed my papers to the official, the woman informed me that I had forgotten the other document (to be honest, I did not even know they had two elections). So in the end I voted only for the City Council. I pressed Groen Links in the election machine and got a list of names. And what joy did I experience when I saw a name I recognised. I voted for the first time in my democratic history for a man.

I must say that this is not what I would like to base my decision on. But as a person working 5 days a week and not speaking the language so well, I just could not see myself spending a weekend with some websites and a dictionary. Well, let's hope the chap and his party are worth my trust.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Say NO to crack!

Today matters somewhat more daunting. Let me share three short stories.

1. In a bar in Amsterdam on a Saturday evening. I was sitting in a table with a friend. It was crowded so a bunch of people were standing REALLY close to our table. Nothing wrong with that APART FROM the "trendy" jeans of one guy. He gave a completely new meaning to low waist. No underwear and a pair of jeans starting from the middle of his bum. Approximately 30 centimetres from my face.

2. In a wok restaurant in Amsterdam. I was eating my noodles with a friend. Two guys were sitting on barstools by the kitchen. The jeans of one of the guys were again, low waist, and the boxers were relatively loose. Directly in front of me, while I was eating.

3. In a bookstore in Amsterdam. A significantly overweight man sitting on the floor reading a book (which he had not paid for). He had leant forward which meant that 3/4 of his crack had lots of space to breathe. In my favourite bookstore, by the Politics section.

Modifying a bit Willy Wonka: Dear (wo)men of the world. I have today declared a war on visible cracks. Call me conservative or prude but a crack does not go well together with Asian food nor with social science literature. I rest my case.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Water or gasoline into the flames?

Originally uploaded by berniegolomb.
I came across an interesting article earlier today. 12 intellectuals come out as defenders of enlightenment and liberal values and against Islamism. I will not make more judgements, check for yourself.

The group is in no way unproblematic. It includes the author-in-hiding Salman Rushdie and the controversial politician-in-safehouse Ayaan Hirsi Ali. And of all the newspapers, they publish it in Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper behind the entire turmoil.

I cannot make up my mind. I have the same feeling as quite often when reading Hirsi Ali's comments. Most of the things about liberal values etc are in no way incorrect but I am not sure about the methods and style.