Saturday, January 27, 2007

(BEEP) save the queen

the queen
Originally uploaded by wrinehart.
As my colleagues are importing youngsters' video material to the computers, I and a colleague of mine had time to go through blogs. She found the explanation to the censorship of the words 'God' and 'homosexual' from the film The Queen. As I posted some days back, I complained on the same issue to Air France. Here is the AP piece news from Yahoo found through

Friday, January 26, 2007


Downtown Amman
Originally uploaded by Roobee.
Second day in Amman, Jordan. I did not really know what to expect. I have never been in this region. We all raised our eyebrows when we saw the road signs near the airport, one saying Iraq and one saying Jerusalem. We really are in the Middle East.

The sun has been shining the entire day as we have been walking around the city with our cameras. I expect to come back with a tan - and a Jordanian scarf. The city has somewhat the same chaotic excitement that you experience in Istanbul.

The best things by now are food and the hospitality of the people. I am once again struck by the warmth that you see in people´s eyes when they insist that the foreigner takes food first, enters from the door first and gets a seat. Same thing that I love in Turkey: people are sincere and kind.

And the food. Humus, fresh salads, tasty olive oil, dried fruit and nuts, fruit juices, tabbouleh, pita bread, falafels. I do not want to go back to the pre-sliced and pre-packed Albert Heijn domain.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Email sent today to Air France

Air France 747-400 F-GITF
Originally uploaded by caribb.
(answer will be published in this blog as well)

Dear recipient,

I flew yesterday on Air France from Paris CDG to Amman in Jordan. I was very pleased with the quality of service ranging from excellent food to good quality blankets. I was very positively surprised when I was offered Stephen Frears' Oscar-nominee film The Queen as an in-flight film.

I have seen the film before and was quite surprised when I noticed that words 'God' and 'homosexual' were silenced from the film.

I would be very curious to know what is the reason for this as this for instance destroyed the following piece of dialogue completely:

Queen's Private Secretary:"But you have to realise that she has been brought up to believe that it is God's will that she is in the position."
Tony Blair:"I think we should leave God out of this."

As a frequent passenger of Flying Blue/KLM-Air France, I would highly appreciate an answer indicating the reason for this policy.

With kind regards,

Tommi Laitio

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Lights out, the film is about to begin

Originally uploaded by machu picchu.
The Oscar nominations were published today. As I should be concentrating on the on-going presentation in this seminar, I will just run through them shortly. There are still a number of films to see but just based on the films I have seen it is easy to do the following remarks:
- Americans are very easy to shock. Nothing else explains the Best Picture nomination of the quasiprovocative Little Miss Sunshine.
- Dreamgirls is a must-see film. I have been listening already to the soundtrack for weeks. Comeback of good music.
- A scriptwriter friend of mine told me that it is wonderful to see a film like The Last King of Scotland - a film on Africa where the blacks are not only sidekicks to a Caucasian hero.
- Meryl Streep deserves the nomination although the Oscar ought to go for Helen Mirren for her stunning performance in The Queen - even before seeing Judi Dench in Notes on A Scandal.
- Winner of Best Documentary is a tough competition and I must say that I hope it is not An Inconvenient Truth. I would favour Jesus Camp.
- I think I need to go and see Babel. The Guardian's main critic Peter Bradshaw found it superficial, scattered and simplified whereas some of my friends have praised it.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Glimpse on reality (TV)

Prime Minister in-waiting makes a statement on whom people should evict from Big Brother. ”A vote for Shilpa is a vote for Britain”, Gordon Brown declares on his visit to a Bollywood studio in India. The Guardian writes five articles in one issue over the programme. Indian demonstrators burn pictures of one the participants of the British Celebrity Big Brother. Big Brother is discussed simultaneously on BBC1 and BBC2. Channel 4 loses a 3 million pound sponsorship. Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell gets questions on the show in House of Commons. ”Jade Goody has run the United Kingdom into an international crisis”, says Big Brother host Davina McCall.

Are you thinking the same as I am: has this country gone totally mad or don’t they just have any real problems?

The Big Brother drama escalated this week when three of the participants (Goody as the leader of the pack) were persistently bullying the Indian film star who was in the house. Most of the viewers were disgusted when Goody said that she does not want to eat the food Shilpa cooked because she doesn’t know where her hands have been. Goody’s mother renamed Shilpa Shetty Princess because she found her name too difficult to pronounce. The issue started getting more and more attention as it was seen as an alarming example of pure racism.

On first thought I found this a typical example of overdeveloped British political correctness. ”It was just one comment”, I ironically stated. But my opinion changed yesterday.

I met a British friend of mine for a drink in Soho. Her parents moved from Bangladesh to the UK before her birth. She is an award-winning playwright and has done several scripts on issues that could maybe be defined as multicultural. As we were sipping our white wine, she mentioned that her two children have been watching the show with full attention and been very upset. She was quite calm on the issue but sighed:”All of us have had those comments for instance of our names being two difficult to pronounce.”

Her comment made me ponder. As she pointed out, the people who have been in the media asking people to calm down have been with without exception Caucasian. In that sense it was not just one simple comment by a non-educated young woman. It was an example of something far bigger. The difficulty was also shown when white editors of quality newspapers put all the blame on Jade Goody’s working class background. ”Maybe she should have invested some of her 8 million pounds on education instead of a boob job”, The Guardian snobbishly stated of the woman who has made a fortune with a fragrance and a diet programme.

For me the Big Brother fuss showed how we still have a lot to do before cultural diversity actually comes a non-issue. We still have a lot to do when non-Europeans need to change their names so that they would be ”pronouncable” for Europeans or when stating one’s nationality is followed with a remark:”But I mean really, where do you COME FROM?”

P.S. Someone should have told Brown that on Big Brother you actually vote for the person you wish to evict. But then again, he is the same guy who said that he listens to Arctic Monkeys every morning but could not name one single song on a radio interview. Hip to be square.

Friday, January 19, 2007

A high probability of wind in the Netherlands

Dude, where's my car?!
Originally uploaded by ►APE-NUT-SACK◄.
It has been ridiculously windy in the Netherlands during the last weeks. In these circumstances one realises what it means to live next to the Atlantic. I have seen people falling down with their bikes only due to the wind.

Yesterday it got totally out of hand. In the morning we were laughing with colleagues as it was difficult to make way to the nearby cafe. Towards the afternoon the mood changed as the news started coming in. Flights were cancelled. Two people were killed when a tree fell on a car. The railway station of Amsterdam was closed because of the risk of the roof falling down. All train traffic was cancelled. Sound blocks on the motorway fell on the street.

Colleagues started checking that their children were OK and packed their bags early to head home. Reception checked whether there is still room in the nearby hotel. Meetings were cancelled. Taxi traffic was stopped for several hours.

I had to fly yesterday evening to Heathrow, London. Around four it became clear that the flight was cancelled but they still advised to head to the airport for rescheduling. I texted my mother and got a worried SMS back in half a minute. I asked her not to worry.

At the airport things were surprisingly calm and they put me on an earlier flight to London. With my friend we spent the evening eating pasta and watching the extended debate on the racist comments on Celebrity Big Brother. Now I am having a late breakfast in a cafe on the sunny South Bank. All good and well in the end.

It was interesting following people's reactions yesterday. I am not used to being scared of nature and found myself being rather calm. Some of my colleagues reacted panicky to every single loud sound - one caused by me when my backpack fell down from a chair and knocked down a lamp. I was wondering why I stayed so calm. I guess it is the Finnish trust on the state to fix things and belief that strategies for situations like these have been planned. I don't even know if that is the case.

Have to go. 30 mins in an Internet cafe is over.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Spill Over

jackson 5
Originally uploaded by Donostihot.
Today is a good day. Finished a decent Finnish collection of short stories and finally plunged into Kjell Westö's ode to Helsinki, his Finlandia literature prize winner novel Missä kuljimme kerran. Only read 60 pages by now but loving it already. The way he describes Helsinki in the beginning of 1900s is thrilling as he writes about the district where I used to live. Originally written in Swedish but the translation is also very good.

The biggest reason for joy today is It is a product of the Music Genome Project and basically a free on-demand radio. You put in an artist and it plays - FOR FREE - music of similar kind. So you put in an artist you like and you are able to find great new artists you will probably like. My artist of today has been Jackson 5 so it is a Motown day with The Temptations and so forth. The only thing on the site is that you need to register with a US zip code but with some innovativity that can be overcome. Just think of Brandon Walsh, as my friend Bettina kindly advised.

The other reason for joy is that I have discovered great cartoon blogs from Finland. I keep checking Hilloa kansalle and Jupu daily. They are fantastic, especially Hilloa kansalle which is done by a young guy presumably doing his non-military service. It is very straight-forward which I find thrilling.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Learning with entertainment

Little Mosque on the Prairie
Originally uploaded by Bernard Roth.
Due to my work I attended last year a session where TV professionals discussed the role of humour when showing minorities. They showed clips from different successful programmes from the US, the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany that deal with ethnic minorities.

I knew most of the examples from the UK and have been watching and enjoying shows such as the BBC production Kumars at 42. But I was quite appalled by the German and Dutch programmes. The worst one I saw was a German producion called Turkish for Beginners. As a British playwright Tanika Gupta pointed out in the panel discussion, in the German case one saw that white people were making fun of immigrants where as in the other examples the humour came from within the minority group or was done with people from the minority group. In that sense I think there is no difference whether one deals with gays or ethnic minorities.

A new show has started in Canada which sounds very promising. Little Mosque on the Prairie is a comedy series of a little village where the Muslim community lives side by side with the Christian community. The writer of the series, Zarqa Nawaz said this week to Reuters:"It is important to win the prejudice that Muslims are not funny or that they have they no sense of humour or that they do not have similar relations like others." The CBC series has been a success both among critics and the audience gathering 2,1 million viewers on first screening.

The few clips on the site seem funny and I am looking forward to the serries starting in Europe. I believe in the power over non-preaching entertainment in overcoming stereotypes. I just remember the huge impract of soap operas in Finland in issues relating to gays, handicapped people or teenager boys' style.

Shake that thing, shake it!

Hmm....I have developed during the last few weeks with a friend of mine this habit of sending bizarre YouTube videos back and forth by email. I sent her some time ago the video (in this blog) from Jerry Springer The Opera. She tops it with this I believe Japanese music video.

I just had a discussion about Japan with a friend of mine last week. I really want rto go there as I feel I need to see a culture where modernity takes completely different forms and shapes.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Banging the ugly one

When does it stop being provocative and brave and becomes just simply boring? I mean books where one (mostly male writer) goes through his disgust towards his wife and the repulsive idea of having sex with this woman who is getting fat. I mean those novels where the writer goes on and on, a page after a page about the smell of sweat, the woman's body hair and her flat breasts. Where sex is turned into something as exciting as eating a spagetti dish found from the back of the fridge. Without ketchup.

This question stems from reading two recently published Finnish novels. Both are praised by critics as brave and what have you. I am talking about the winner of the Helsingin Sanomat literature prize, Armas Alvari's Varmat tapaukset and rockstar-gone-novelist Kauko Röyhkä's Avec.

I don't know whether the problem is the topic or their skills. I have been reading these two books page after page and find myself thinking: I have read this before and this is so quasi-brave. Röyhkä builds on sensationalism while Alvari trusts on describing the boring life most of us live. Describing spanking or watching your daughter having sex in full detail has all been done before. And most importantly: better.

Or maybe my standards are just a bit higher after reading Finland's Charles Bukowski, Henrik Tikkanen over the holidays. Tikkanen goes through his neglecting alcoholic parents, failed marriages, sex adventures with prostitutes and his own love affairs and alcoholism in a way which is at the same time witty, sad and funny. This is one of those few books which I plan to read a couple of times. Just a short quote (sorry for the poor translation):

"Was I able to suffer? Every time I had tried suffering, I had fallen out of the role and the whole suffering had started to feel silly. My sense of humour failed me. It was difficult for me to get going the sentimental feeling, which is the basis in Finland for creating art, oppressing the women and declaring patriotism. I lacked the purity of the feeling which is the foundation of all greatness."
- Henrik Tikkanen (1976): Majavatie 11

Monday, January 08, 2007

On top of it all

Sunset at Lake Rudan
Originally uploaded by Steffe.
Sun shines above the Swedish clouds. Nearly three weeks of Christmas holiday is over and time to go back to Amster-bloody-dam. As a bridge between the linguistic regions I listen to the always fantastic Swedish jazz singer Monica Zetterlund. ”Säg några vackra ord. Kom och trösta och säg till mig: kom, vi går hem. Kom ljug mig en saga. Jag vill hem för när något är slut, går man hem”, she whispers of going home.

These moments are always a bit moody, must admit. Although my home now is in the Netherlands and I am looking forward to sleeping in my own bed, spending weeks with people I absolutely love and speaking MY language is always a bit difficult to leave behind.

So what happened:

- a nephew showing more and more personality

- woken up by a 4-year-old who jumps on the bed

- discussions among others on kids, signs on doors in Tokyo, TV violence, public transport, work, wasabi nuts, marriage, Idols, whether Finland is part of Europe, deadlines, Russian smoked cheese, Bant magazine, cucumbers, socialism, Sirpa, interviews, Turks, embarrasment, sex, Apple (not Chris Martin’s and Gwyneth Paltrow’s kid – the computer), middle class, President, happiness, KLM, Susan Kuronen, loonatics, Madonna, the level of tolerance among engineering students, immigration, Penelope Cruz’s butt, Putin, issues that turn you off quickly, SS-men, whether Norwegian is just Swedish written when drunk, whether you just have to tolerate irritating relatives, Dutch cabinet coalition, winning and losing, Jerry Springer The Opera, having a crush, farting, Normandy, bitter 40-year-old female journalists, taking over a Finnish weekly, power, PMMP, Schiphol, cynicism, divorce, older relatives, disastrous break-ups, Trivial Pursuit, sex tourism, after parties, fighting techniques, combining family and career, finlandization, a documentary on the biggest breasts in the world, narrow-mindedness, whether Carola Häggvist is scary, mental illnesses, taxation, booze, which bar to choose next, irritating flatmates, code of conduct when under the influence of alcohol and on whether this is really it and where to go from here

- a genuinely warm and beautiful Christmas with the family

- another viewing of ABBA’s ”Happy New Year”

- fish, scampi, vegetables, wine and in the end of the evening: less fear for getting old

Friday, January 05, 2007

On the sunny side of things

In all its brutality brilliant song from Jerry Springer The Opera (musical). Someone has also made an effort to make this video collage for YouTube.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Another unstable-sounding woman

Discussion with a hip hop journalist a while ago at a workshop I organised for work:

Her:"So what kind of music do you listen to? Cos you said earlier that not really hip hop."
Me:" is kind of difficult to describe. I mostly like women and those that sound a bit unstable."
Her:"So what does that mean?"
Me:"People like Tori Amos, Cerys Matthews, Björk, Astrid Swan, Joni Mitchell, Carole King and so forth. And at times Macy Gray."

After that discussion the Swede Frida Hyvönen came and rocked my world with the wonderful combination of a piano, a delicate voice, Swedish chick look and provocative lyrics. She rules. Just listen a clip from her song Once I Was A Serene Teenaged Child and you know what I am talking about.

But now another lady has entered my life. Yes, she is the one in the picture and her name is Amy Winehouse. I found her first album (Frank) quite aggressive and suitable for days when I was already very pissed off. I forgot her existence for a long time. But now she is back with a new album, Back To Black.

Her voice is powerful - some sort of a a mixture of nasal and throaty. She sings sad songs such as Love Is A Losing Game. The traditional rhythm is slightly broken with a backbeat. The amount of instruments is admirable from violins to always so wonderful horns. But the best part is that she manages to sound very defeated and sad. She is The Woman of The Week in my (new) iPod.