Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Time for real dutch food
Originally uploaded by koe2moe.
Went to dinner with a friend tonight. The menu of the café was rather meat-oriented so decided to go for stampot, traditional Dutch food.

Stampot is the thing in the picture on the left. It's sort of baby food fed to adults. Mashed potatoes and maybe other vegetables. Rather nice if you want food that goes down without thinking.

In this café they had pimped it with cashew nuts and cheese. Come on. Let's keep them basic and leave the fusion kitchen out of this. Only thing missing from this portion was rucola and balsamico which find their way on the plates of most "trendy" restaurants.

Good example of the changes in times. We were playing Alias (explain a word to your team) with the family during Christmas. I think it was my brother who said something like:"You have it in every fridge." His girlfriend shouted enthusiastically:"I know, I know. Pesto!"

Sunday, February 25, 2007

All together now

Clean Ungdom
Originally uploaded by amsterboy.
"Why does this guy have gloves on?" We spent time in a café with a friend of mine on Friday going through election material. It took me time to realise that the Swedish Folk Party had photoshopped all the candidate pictures so that the body was black and white (see pic). I really do not understand the message. To me it looks like they have all put gloves on before they go and shake hands with the people. Not the wisest choice for a party struggling with an elitist image.

Well, not to slander only one party, I must say that I am not too convinced by the campaigns as a whole. My personal favourites are the slogans of the ruling Centre Party:
- A bit like you would vote yourself (how depoliticising can you be?)
- We're also born from the middle (and...)

The Coalition Party (Conservatives) has an ear campaign copied from the big world. They basically have opened cafés all over the country for listening. Reminds me a bit of the Segolene Royal campaign in France. The big thing is how much this listening actually influences the policies.

The Social Democrats have a campaign with a big red Us and a smaller blue Me or a big red bus and a smaller blue limousine. It is once again an example of the problems of the Social Democrats. Their campaign relies on putting the others down, not presenting any new visions.

The most amusing campaign from the Social Democrats is the advertisement for the young candidates. The slogan is Demand Better News.

Both actions rom the Social Democrats have logical failures - first of all the current government's (Centre-Social Democrats) policy to cut taxes went further than the Coalition Party ever strived for. It has gone for individuals rather than the services for us all. And I find it difficult to understand how the young Social Democrats can campaign for change when they have been the ruling party in the country for ages.

I heard an amusing anecdote from the Green campaign. One of the suggestions for a slogan from the ad agency had been Party for All of Us. This would have been very much in line with the Centre Party but a bit twisted from a party with support of less than 10 %.

All and all the election seem to be quite boring as most people expect that the current coalition will continue as the economy is in good swing and the Coalition Party has been more or less teethless.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The attraction of London

Breaking & Entering
Originally uploaded by idealterna.
I was in London some weeks back for work. I cannot help it. Although the city is so dirty, overcrowded, smelly and totally out of proportion considering prizes, I still find it highly attractive. The more i visit London, the more I want to move there for some time. To make it there.

Although most of Londoners are doing socio-economically miserably, it is still one of the few places where all possibilities are within reach. And a city where the default option of a white man is really disappearing. I also find it wonderful how people stay alone in the same space, i.e. how everyone creates their own bubble in an overpacked underground cart. The modernism idea of my freedom ending only when it starts interfearing with the freedom of others.

My London addiction got another boost yesterday due to Anthony Minghella's new film Breaking and Entering. It tells a story of an architect Will (the talented Jude Law who gets only better as the years go by) who moves his office to the turmoil area of King's Cross. As someone breaks into the office twice, Will gets obsessed with catching the thieves and one night follows young Bosnian Miro home only to fall in love with Miro's mother Amira (Juliette Binoche).

The film is one of the rare pieces where dialogue is believable, where happy ending is only relative, where sadness is written on everyone's face and where the roughness of London is portrayed honestly. Juliette Binoche does an astonishing performance as an immigrant mother losing control of her son and willing to do all it takes to keep the young juvenile on the right tracks.

As I sit constantly in an office with three people from the Balkans, I paid a lot of attention to Binoche's accent. She has had a good coach. That mixture of warmth and clear articulation is exactly how a lot of them sound.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Uhm....is it OK if I say this in English?

Gamla Stan, Stockholm
Originally uploaded by Greg_e.
Just got to Helsinki from my two-day visit to Stockholm. This miniature St. Petersburg is freezing: slight wind, snow and approximately 20 degrees minus. Will work a bit on some text for work and see family. Looking forward.

I stayed with my Finnish friend in Stockholm. As we met at the Central Station, she had a big smile on her face:"I am SOOO glad you are here. I have been feeling very small and going by the walls in public places."

First I thought she was exaggerating but after strolling through the beautiful old city and the trendy shops of Södermalm, I really understood what she meant. I felt ashamed for speaking Finnish, my "so last season" clothing, having a Finnish accent in my Swedish and not being able to complete a conversation without some English. I seldom feel as second rate as in Sweden. And not to mention that they are all so bloody tall, pleasant and good-looking.

The biggest literature prize of Sweden was recently awarded to an author called Susanna Alakoski. Her novel Svinalängorna tells a story of a Finnish family moving to Sweden. As my friend started reading the book, I heard her gasping and commenting the book constantly. "This is so awful. I cannot handle these feelings in the book. I want to go to Helsinki" She was also waiting for me to start reading it so we could talk about some parts of the book.

I have it in my bag as well but hesitate a bit with starting it. The reason of hesitation is not the subject - it is the language. I am not sure if I am able to complete a book about Finns as second-rate people in Sweden in Swedish. And if the answer is no, I am sure it does wonders to my self-esteem. We shall see.

Friday, February 16, 2007


As our work email system is down this morning (the first morning in two years when I actually made it to the office before nine in the morning), I have a few minutes for writing my blog. It has been a hectic week which is the reason for the silence during the past few days.

Another declaration of love coming up. There´s the Swedish glam-o-rama band The Ark (which is strongly on the way of representing Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest). There´s is the over-the-top pop of Scissor Sisters. There´s the analytical, flamboyant, complex and vain Rufus Wainwright. And then there is Mika.

I found Mika last week. A day after I started playing his music a friend of mine called me. The phone discussion went as follows:
- Hey.
- Hey.
- I have found an artist for you.
- You mean Mika?
- Damn! You heard of him already. I heard his music this week and my first thought was: this is Tommi´s music.

He was right. Mika is my cycling soundtrack to the office. I am trying to control myself at the moment because on the first Mika day I was so excited and energised about the music that I started speeding and speeding up which resulted to nearly being hit by a car and nearly running over a woman jogging in the park. Music is dangerous.

And if you have no idea what I am talking about, check the video of the song Grace Kelly on YouTube. I love the lyrics:
"I try to be like Grace Kelly
But all her looks were too sad
So I try a little Freddie
I´ve gone identity mad!"

Sunday, February 11, 2007

End of idealism

bobby kennedy
Originally uploaded by rosehana.
Beauty. Idealism. End of optimism. Moving forward from dichotomies. Better future. New sort of leadership. Hope. Dreams killed with one simple gunshot. All those things popped into my mind yesterday when watching Emilio Estevez's new film Bobby. Estevez shows the hope that Robert F. Kennedy managed to generate in the United States of 1968. The film concentrates on the guests and staff of the Californian Ambassador Hotel which was the campaign headquarters of Kennedy's presidential bid and also the place where Kennedy was shot. The cast is amazing ranging from Elijah Wood and (in this role) fantastic Demi Moore to Laurence Fishburne and Anthony Hopkins.

I must confess that I did not know too much of Robert F. Kennedy. To put it bluntly, I knew that he was the younger brother of JFK and was assassinated in 1968.

Some weeks back ago I read an article from The Guardian on the film with a headline stating that in Bobby Kennedy we all saw ourselves at our best. Now I understand what the editor meant.

Estevez has selected a popular methodology in today's film, i.e. rolling in a gigantic amount of characters which together build a picture of the main person who is only shown by using archive footage. And although the film has Democratic Party and anti-Bush straight-forwardly stapled all over it, it is worth seeing. Comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam are very obvious. One of the characters describes Kennedy's importance beautifully in an America tangled in Vietnam:"After Dr King (Martin Luther King Jr just killed shortly before) there is only Bobby. There is no one else." It leaves one thinking who nowadays could grow into such a role. I don't see that happening with Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

The film made me cry. It reminds one of what political leadership is at its best. It mobilises people, it creates a "Can Do" culture and - as the The Guardian wrote - it brings out of the best in all of us. Leaders are needed to convince us that we need to change but still the work needs to be done by us.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Did we go to the same event?

Listening hands
Originally uploaded by

"We hope this evening will be a start for a lively debate on..." Men on the stage talk about culture. Women are allowed into the debate when they address emotions (and when they are pretty and young). Women are asked to talk about personal things, middle-aged men talk about facts and politics.

The debate goes on and on and suddenly there is not really time for discussion (which actually means questions). The moderator asks questions starting mostly with "isn´t it so" or questions without a question.

This is what we in Europe call public debate.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Masculine revisited

So stylish man
Originally uploaded by Muhina.
I am writing this on the flight from Amman to Paris. Would be nice to have the skill of sleeping on the plane. My colleague is totally passed out with her mouth open. But as that was not provided into my toolbox. writing my blog is a relatively good alternative. Once again my iTunes somehow knew my mood. It is playing The Cardigans’ 03:45 No Sleep.

There is a lot to say about Jordan. One could write individual posts over food, landscapes, moonlight and so forth. But as my great interest has always been in the behaviour of people, I will focus on that.

I find the Middle Eastern concept of masculinity immensely interesting. For someone coming from the ultimate north, the Middle Eastern way of touching and showing emotions is completely exotic. In the theoneminutesjr workshop with the teenagers many of the male participants expressed warmth, tendency for romance and friendship in ways that would completely confuse peers in Scandinavia. They talked about their emotions or older relatives in ways that would rarely happen among teenager guys in Finland. One could at the same time have a young man saying that his favourite film is Titanic and some minutes later the same boy would be listening to hard core death metal. Masculinity seems to be defined on a different scale than in up north.

Same could be seen among the bedouins we met during our desert visit. Group of men around a campfire just started dancing – not to impress the women but just to have fun. They also talked about each other with a kindness which would be ridiculed as wimpy in the West.

As I was sharing my confusion with a local woman, she commented with the following:”You have to take into account that most of the men here grow up in a 100 % male environment and they only start interacting with girls or women seriously when they get married. This leads also to sexist remarks to women on the streets and channelling some of the emotions to male friendships.”

Her point is extremely important. At the same time as men are free to express soft emotions on a maybe wider scale than in the north, Jordan is still a country where respectable single women need to keep living with their family or where homes are divided into shared and gender-restricted areas.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Abu Dager goes sandrolling

Originally uploaded by amsterboy.
Rocky roads, snow-like sand dunes, tripping donkeys, jogging camels. Jordan is quite amazing. It is a country that seems like another planet for someone coming from the north. It is also a place where you really see what erosion means. When one watches news about climate change, they are quite easy to make concrete over here. The whole landscape is sculpted harshly by winds, water and the sand.

"It's like being in a Windows screensaver", a friend of mine said as we bounced up and down in the open back of the jeep, sand scrubbing our skin. "A bit corny to take pictures which all look like postcards", he continued. We all had our sunglasses on and our red and white Jordanian scarves tightly around our necks.

Oh yes, scrubbing. In addition to the landscapes and among other things a night in a tent in the desert, it has also been a genuine feelgood holiday. From eating kilos of hoummous, plates and plates of tabbouleh, dozens of falafels and chicken cooked on an open fire in the middle of the desert to covering ourselves with the mud of the Dead Sea and sweating the dirt away in a Turkish bath, we have genuinely experienced Jordan in the full. "How is it", asked the Egyptian masseur as he was crunching my back with his knuckles after a day in the ancient city Petra. "Out of this world", could have been my conclusive response over the last few days.

And yes, that is me, Abu Dager (Arabic name given by a Jordanian student on our desert excursion) rolling down a soft dune.