Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Before the End: Revival Of The 1980's. (Sporty, sporty me.)

There is a number of IStori readers who think that I have started yoga lessons, or that I have been practising yoga for a long time, or that I am a yoga guru.

Sorry to cause you unbearable dissapointment, but I have never been interested in yoga. I just thought "Hot Yoga" sounds weird and dynamic enough for me to try. Or actually, I once was interested, it was three years ago, or maybe two... (This is very rare, I can't remember if it was b.F. or just p.F. = before Funnybunny or post Funnybunny.)

But I went to a yoga lesson in a place the teacher was supposed to be very qualified and oneoftheabsolutebest and so on.

I could not concentrate in breathing (they make a terrible fuss over that), but instead, the troubles at work – believe me, I have had my share of those, and it has been a BIG share – kept occupying my mind.

The most irritating thing was that when the teacher came to correct some bad position of mine, and doing a good job, most likely, I was all puzzled and angry because he had interrupted my precious process of... thinking.

So the major thing I learned that evening: in order to get rid of mundane worries I must do something that occupies my mind completely. My favourite kind of excercise, in addition to the ones listed before, is something that requires a lot of energy, but is not too challenging so that I don't need to have lessons for decades before I can move from the beginner's level. (= includes all the Japanese martial arts, for example.)

My cup of tea:

*** Swimming. Including water gymnastics, everything in water, or jumping into it! Swimming in natural waters. With dolphins and sharks.
*** Badminton.
*** Squash. Hello, 80's again!
*** Cross-country skiing. (It's true, I have always loved it, always.)
*** Skating. (Good rink in the centre of Helsinki nowadays, on Rautatientori.)
*** My favourite kind of dance excercise used to be called "jazz ballet", but it is difficult to come by any more.


Fish fingers, WHAM and Walkmans. Past tense, say hello to IStori. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.

But what if really good things never vanish. Soon all of you will be jogging – my having been the trend guide.

Or maybe the world will come to its end before that. Mane the mean has found The End Of The Internet.

Get out of here, do something useful.


Mane the Mean is going to a boxing match! That must be something. I have never been, but I wish I had. It is my favourite spectator sport at the Olympic Games. Plus all the sports with horses.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Push ups. No attachments.

Spring has come. You can tell from listening to people talking about sports. Everybody wants to do something, energy is rolling, and papers are full of articles about obesity, cellulite, diets, or the usual bikini stuff. The Canary Islands holiday season will be starting – not that it concernes us, no, we are so not going.

I see that Petite Anglaise goes to gym – I can't, I find it SO boring. Or maybe, how if I took some good book with me? (I usually tend to read back-volumes of women's magazines while suffering in leg-press. SEE, I have been at gyms.) She seems to hate it, too, but she keeps "bearing with it", as for her gym is a "necessity".

Well, good for Petite Anglaise and I wish her best of luck (and do not understand how she, a single mother and a writer, will find the time for gym three times a week!)

I am not at all anti-sport, and I do not feel at all embarrassed when sweating. I like running, cycling, dancing. All that aerobic stuff that is far from fashionable any more. But I don't like modern techno aerobics. I hate the music and usually, it is much too loud. Have to wear earplugs, terrible.

For me, doing sports must be easy. What I mean is, the place where to exercise must be near (preferably, at home or close.) And, I don't want to pay for classes beforehand; neither do I want to buy ridiculous one year long memberships. No attachments, no fidelity.

But I like push ups: I do 50 every day. Started last Christmas. And now that I am stronger, I do them just like men are supposed to, not the ladylike ones with knees on the floor.

I see that a. has tried yoga. The Bikram yoga ("hot yoga") place is very near where I live. But I am NOT going there without a. Especially not at 7.30 a.m.

So why blog about sports, in the middle of important political developments, surrounded by deeply philosofical books, and when excellent documentaries are shown at DocPoint festivals, in Helsinki?

No. Sports it is now, because

a) being fit is important, too, and not at all useless.
b) Makes one's brain active, too, and
c) adds quality of life. And,
d) because Miss Funnybunny is having a cold again there's very little I could tell you about the on-going film festivals. I wasn't able see many films, unfortunately. (But managed to see two! That was something!)

Also, you see, the sports I prefer – home gym, push ups on the living room floor, and walking, playing and dancing with Miss Funnybunny, and occacional running (not now, it's winter here!) – they don't cost anything.

Though, sauna and swimming pool at Yrjönkatu cost occasional 4,20 euros. But I can manage that.


I will soon blog about a film in particular. First I just have to do some reading and thinking. AN, just wait and see.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Lost. Part II.

Please see Lost I, ie. the previous entry in my blog.

The following quotes are from the press release of Russian-Chechnyan Friendship Society (RCFS).

"It is evident that the so-called positive image of Russia is also of no concern for the present Kremlin authorities. They keep complaining about somebody’s evil intention to discredit them in the eyes of their free world counterparts when murders
of dissident politicians and journalists in the contemporary Russia are raised at the international fora from time to time. They have got used to avoiding answering unsuitable questions about Chechnya for so long that now they feel free to mockingly neglect them. There has been no other response from the Russian authorities to the claim of the international public figures to the murder of Politkovskaya but mere words about continuing investigation. The Russian authorities have responded to the concerns expressed about the ruling to liquidate the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (RCFS) on absurd extremist charges with the final decision to crack down on us."


IStori: This is HARD stuff! It is not often that I get to see words like "so-called positive image", "evil intention" and "to mockingly neglect".

But I just love their sincerity; straight forward, with no hesitation, let alone fear.

No, there must be fear, after all this violence. But it does not show in this text.

Their soulmates abroad should give a helping hand.


RCFS: "The court session held at the Supreme Court yesterday was a farce. Firstly, the hearing was postponed until late afternoon without warning. It was an obvious

attempt to get rid of observers but all of them were at the door of the Supreme Court at 3 pm. Then officers of justice claimed that there was not enough room for all the observers in a tiny court room where the hearing was organized. However, it turned out that they had deliberately brought a group of people who just occupied the seats in an attempt not to let observers attend the trial. When those people were asked what organization they represented, they mockingly responded, “No organization. We are just public". Later two of those people confessed that some of them were students of the Law Academy and that they had been ordered to stay in the court room."

IStori: Excuse me? They fill the room with students. Kids. Who are told to come and occupy all the seats.

And they, representatives of the Supreme Court, actually think they can get away with that!

It is the kind of stupid, hard-boiled arrogance that, had it not been such a tragic event, it would make me laugh.

And, as a matter of fact, they can get away with that.

This is very frustrating.

Lost. Why Is This Century Worse?

The Russian Supreme Court has decided to reject the appeal against the closure of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (RCFS).

Let me put it bluntly: The Friendship organisation is closed. We lost: they, the human rights activists in both Russian and Chechnya, and so did we, all of us who signed the petition.

By the way, the headquarters of RCFS were in Nizhnyi Novgorov (hence the photo above).

Amnesty has condemned the decision. According to their press release: "Today's decision delivers a double blow - one to freedom of expression and another to civil society," said Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

"This ruling against the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society sends a chilling signal that other NGOs stepping out of line can share its fate. The Russian authorities have an obligation to guarantee a climate free of intimidation in which human rights activists can work."



Why is this century worse than those others?
Maybe, because, in sadness and alarm,
It only touched the blackest of the ulcers,
But couldn't heal it in its span of time.

Else, in the West, the earthly sun endows
The roofs of cities with the morning light,
But, here, the White already marks a house,
And calls for crows, and the crows fly.

-- Anna Akhmatova, 1919

Friday, January 19, 2007


The challenge of Photo Thursday of this week is to ask Why? (I kind of did, in my last blogging: why did Anna have to die?)

But now, at the Helsinki Travel Fair, I came by this HUGE pike.

Why, oh why does she wear an apron?

Citizens' Forum


A group worried about the undemocratic development and the state of human rights in Russia has established a non-governmental organisation, Finnish-Russian Citizens' Forum.

The organisation is to "help citizens and peoples in Finland and the Russian Federation to cooperate, and to support non-governmental organisations in their effort to strengthen democracy, human rights, and freedom of speech in Russia".

The active team-work of people concerned about Russia's current development started soon after the murder of Russian journalist and civil rights activist Anna Politkovskaya. Several appeals were sent to the governments of Finland and Russia, and public discussions, and demonstrations for human rights were organised in autumn 2006.

The Citizens' Forum supports Russian non-governmental organisations, which are now facing difficulties in their work due to Russia's new draconian law on NGOs. The Citizens' Forum will invite representatives of Russian organisations to Finland, organise visits to Russia, and distribute information about the situation in Russia.

The Citizens' Forum will soon open its web site at www.finrosforum.fi.

The name of the new organisation translates into Swedish as "Finsk-ryska medborgarforumet". The Citizens' Forum carries an unofficial name in Russian: "Finsko-rossiyskiy grazhdanskiy forum".

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Wide open. In a Sentimental Mood. Rest In Peace, Michael Brecker

The latest challenge of the Photo Thursday was "avara". Wide open, I'd translate. And here is my sad avara photo.

It is the Senate Square in the centre of Helsinki, with some paper scraps. Due to the Climate Change everything is dark, snowless (AGAIN). And you should see the sea, it's right behind those buildings on the left. The sea level is high up, and rising.

And next to the statue of Czar Alexander II, of Russia, there is the Dark Angel, see:

Very sad news have reached the world of music: Michael Brecker has died on Saturday the 13th at age of 57. The cause of death was myelodysplastic syndrome, a bone-marrow disorder, which finally progressed to leukemia.

The New York Times put it beautifully: "Having taken a deep understanding of John Coltrane’s saxophone vocabulary and applied it to music that merged with mainstream culture — particularly jazz fusion and singer-songwriter pop of the 1970s and 80s — Mr. Brecker spread his sound all over the world.

His long list of sideman work from then on wended through hundreds more records, including those by Frank Zappa, Aerosmith, James Brown, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Lou Reed, Funkadelic, Steely Dan, John Lennon, Elton John, and James Taylor, as well as (on the jazz side) Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and Papo Vasquez."

My CD collection exactly.

Before I get to tumble In a Sentimental Mood (do watch and listen to that one!) I have to add something dynamic: DO NOT forget to sign the petition before Jan 22, remember? It's the one I put here the other day, see the title "Sign this".

And: Hey! Let's be careful out there! (<- where was that from, anybody?)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Snow, snow, snow... Finally! Warm winter is over, in Helsinki.

... But it is not just us Finns who have been puzzled by this autumn-like weather, with flowers blooming, mushrooms rearing up their ugly heads, and the sea: open, unfrozen, deadly dull and cold. So, what is this all about? And what should we do? I'll get back at that SOON.

((GUESS WHAT we are doing now. Thanks to the new Finnish digital TV system, we are watching the Sami TV news. We can barely understand a word -- but it doesn't matter at all: there are lots of reindeer on TV now. And snow.

Probably the most important topics in Sami news: "Five reindeer of Aslak's reported disappeared in Inari yesterday." "Huge snowflakes falling in Kessi." "Aslak's reindeer found undamaged in Sodankylä last night. No crime suspected." "Snow packing thickly at the Norwegian coast, pushing a fish processing facility into the sea."))

But this one is not a joke:

"Anomalously warm winter may lead to lamentable consequences for Russian economy

In terms of history of modern Russia, the unusually warm winter of 2006-2007 may go down as a record setter for the early 21st century. Russia remains one of the most weather-dependent countries of the world. Not unlike the dollar exchange rate and stock indices fluctuations, temperatures may have an impact on the Russian economy. By and large, Russian business community takes a rather cautious stand on the issue. No profit and loss statements relating to this year’s weather anomaly are immediately available. Meanwhile, representatives of the Russian alcohol industry do not seem to be shy of making comments on the impact of air temperatures on liquor sales."

The Pravda article is here.

Sign this. Deadline: January 22, 2007.

Russian Organization Faces Crucial Court Hearing

Urge President Putin to Cease Harassment of Independent Human Rights Defenders

Click Here to Take Action.

On January 23, 2007 the Federal Supreme Court in Moscow will hear the appeal against an order to close a human rights organization, the Russian Chechen Friendship Society (RCFS), issued by a court in Nizhny Novgorod on October 13, 2006.

The organization has suffered a long history of threats, harassment and attacks that appear designed to silence its work as one of the few remaining independent organizations reporting on human rights violations in the context of the ongoing conflict in Chechnya and the North Caucasus.

Enforcing the closure of RCFS would send a chilling message to other human rights defenders in Russia, particularly in the aftermath of the unsolved killing of the eminent journalist and activist Anna Politkovskaya.

We ask you to urge the Russian government to uphold basic freedoms of expression and association, and cease harassment and interference with the work of independent human rights organizations. The Russian government should withdraw its opposition to the organization's appeal, and the closure order against RCFS should be lifted.

Click Here to Take Action.

Learn more about the harassment faced by RCFS.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Top Banana In the Shock Department. Human Factor.

I am always drawn back to places where I have lived, the houses and their neighbourhoods. For instance, there is a brownstone in the East Seventies where, during the early years of the war, I had my first New York apartment. It was one room crowded with attic furniture, a sofa and fat chairs upholstered in that itchy, particular red velvet that one associates with hot days on a train...

No, that is not me, IStori writing, that's Truman Capote:

"It never occurred to me in those days to write about Holly Golightly, and probably it would not now except for a conversation I had with Joe Bell that set the whole memory of her in motion again."

There are some books and writers I never get tired of, and Capote is one of them, Breakfast at Tiffany's being one the best short story collections I know. My other favourite authors I keep reading again and again are Boris Pasternak, the Brontë sisters; the Scotts Ian Rankin and Denise Mina, and... But let me tell you about music:

I am listening to the newest CD (I am still happily old-fashioned CD listener, from stone age) of Kate Bush. "Aerial", it is called. Aaahhh... Kate has written all the lyrics. In the first piece she sings

"Why does a multi-millionaire
Fill up his home with priceless junk?

The wind is whistling
Through the house

Elvis are you out there somewhere
Looking like a happy man?
In the snow with Rosebud
And the king of the mountain"

The first time I heard this piece, I fell in love with this double CD as a whole. But I have always loved the sound of Kate Bush music.

Sorry, Henry Mancini, Kate Bush has beaten you, this time. Her very second-millenniumish voice fits well into the backgroud of Holly Golightly, "top banana in the shock department", drinking cocktails at Joe Bell's, making phone calls as "during the war a private telephone was hard to come by", and later Joe taking messages, "which, in Holly's case, was no small favor, for she had a tremendous many."


Other two favourite writers of mine: Graham Greene and Len Deighton. Probably because I am a great fan of spy stories. Greene is so good.

Now I am reading Human Factor, story about a dull but sympathetic Maurice Castle working for the Secret Service. "He was always prepared to account for his actions, even the most innocent, and he was always strictly on time."

Castle and his loving African wife, happily married, live far from Central London. But suddenly there is a leak at the department...

This story swallows the reader right from the start. You can't resist, you are sucked deeply into the plot.

Len Deighton has written a number of good novels, but I still prefer his three Samson trilogies; nine books all together, just in case you can't count.

But it was not until I started reading Human Factor again when I realised he, Deighton, actually owes a lot to Greene. Deighton must be a great fan of Greene's (well aren't we all?), they have so many good things in common: the dry, sarcastic humour; clever dialogue; well-described characters -- the main players are the kind of people you feel you know, but at the same time, you would like to know MORE about them; perfectly good story telling skills -- and many more.


One day, when I finish my novel, I will owe Deighton huge debt...


The photo below: Casino Royale on New Year's Day. Miss Funnybunny loves poker, Texas Hold'em, of course.

And boy, she is good.

Later she can support her mummy with that fat bank account of hers.


In Finnish only, be envious: Hauskaa! Jos tarvitsette oheisia palveluita, käykää katsomassa yhteystiedot Kaisaniemen metroaseman K-marketin seinältä:

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

It is the late morning of 1.1.2007. Miss Funnybunny and I have just watched TV news of international channels and seen that you guys in the US just celebrated the last midnight of 2006. Yippppppeee, HAPPYYYY NEEWWWW YYYEEEAARRRRR, YUUU-ESSSS-AAAAA AAANNNDD CAAA-NAAA-DAAA!!!!

I decided to ban chocolate. None for me, and none for Miss Funnybunny, either. But then I was re-thinking this major sacrifice and realised I am not ready for it. And you can't do these things just because someone tells you have to. You must be willing to do that yourself. (Okay, okay, no-one has told me to. It just sounded so right.)

One reason for continuing to enjoy eating chocolate is that as a present we got wonderful hand-made Chocolate Balls (yes, REALLY. See the photo above). And I just can't let go. Anyhow, I was on strike... but only until the end of the last year!

The fact that the Total Chocolate Ban lasted only for some hours does not matter, it is the thought that counts.


Please see the Challenge below (is my yesterday's blogging), and thanks for everybody for answering (some have answered by e-mail or in the blogs of their own).

The major question is not just to sum up the late '06, but to tell What Is To be Done. Especially you guys who live in my neighborning country in the East (OC, AN, OK...), I would very much like to hear your thoughts!

Enjoy, and let the good times roll, Time After Time.


By the way, the beautiful woman in yesterday's blogging is not any kind of a Queen Of Soul (at least not that I know of. But maybe she is a queen of karaoke; I wouldn't be surprised...), unlike someone asked. She is Angela Davis. (Mr HP is her fan!)