Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"I want to go in". Félicitations!

So, you have let your hair grow? Stylish, as You always are. Congrats, Atiq!

* * * * *

"Soon they'll socialise the car industry," Mr HP commented this morning. He was puzzled, and slightly amused, too, I must admit. It is his birthday today, so into our bed he received coffee, newspaper and buns (proudly baked by me) with whipped cream.

While enjoying the warmest congratulations from Miss Funnybunny and me, with self-made cards and a poem (mine!) he was digging into the deep and crushing crisis of car industry in USA. (But good for the environment? Well, perhaps, if they build any alternative means of transportation. But that's what the big country is lacking at the moment.)

Then, just to make him laugh and forget the recession for a sec – an entrepreneur as he is (but in the hard business of literature, so he's not a car salesman!) – I told him the joke M.U. e-mailed me yesterday (THANKS again, dearest M!):

"One sunny day in 2009,

an old man sitting on a park bench opposite the White House, got up, crossed Pennsylvania Avenue and said to the U.S. Marine standing guard, 'I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.' The Marine replied, 'Sir, Mr. Bush is no longer president and no longer resides here.''Okay,' said the old man and walked away.

The following day, the same man walked over to the White House and said to the same Marine, 'I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.' The Marine replied, 'Sir, as I said yesterday, Mr. Bush is no longer president and no longer resides here.' 'Okay,' said the old man again and walked away.

The third day, the same man walked over to the White House and said to the very same Marine, 'I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.'

The Marine, understandably annoyed, looked at the man and replied, 'Sir, this is the third day in a row you have been here asking to speak to Mr. Bush. I've told you already that Mr. Bush is no longer the president and no longer resides here. Don't you understand?'

The old man said, 'Oh, I understand. I just love hearing it.'

The Marine snapped to attention, saluted, and said, 'See you tomorrow.'"

* * *

And last but not least, I would like to congratulate the newest winner of the most valuable literature prize in France, Prix Goncourt: Atiq Rahimi!

Your books on Afganistan and the wars the nation has suffered from have made me a huge impression. I can hardly wait for the next one!

It was lovely to work with You years ago. The war fabricated by the CIA or George W. or whoever, against "the axis of evil" – one strong member of which was supposingly Afganistan – had just started and everywhere You had to comment on the desperate situation of the Afgans.

But yet, we did have a good time in Central Finland, partying until dawn with a bunch of literature maniacs. It was a literature happening in Urjala, in the nostalgic landscapes of the most important Finnish classics.

Félicitations, cher Atiq!

In an interview Rahimi comments on his book Earth and Ashes: "I wrote the novel in 1996, when the Taliban had just come to power. I thought, "Why? Why this violence? Why so much destruction?" During the Soviet war, there was a lot of vengeance, much catastrophe. The Taliban came from this catastrophe. It is important to know where this came from. Also, I wanted to show the three generations of Afghanistan. Dastaguir, the old man, represents Afghanistan's past, its traditions, its customs, its honor. This is the older generation. His son is the present, my generation. He works in a mine; he is the mujahideen generation, the chaos. Yassin, the grandson, is the future. He is deaf, handicapped by war. It is always true that communication between generations does not exist. My generation, the generation of Mujahideen and Communist, has no communication with the past or future."

* * * * *

Happy Birthday to those of You who celebrate this very day: the twins Ode and Hannu, Antti V, and especially Petteri = 40 years!!!! Congrats for the degree to Ira!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Oh, say can you see

Congrats, USA! And thanks for showing there is hope for the future.

Dear Barack. Now start working for peace and human rights outside the USA, too. (Comes with the job as the World Leader. And you know, you and President Hu Jintao are the guys the aliens want to address to when right after their arrival they say to the first earthlings they meet "take us to your leader".)

In your country, reduce greenhouse gasses IMMEDIATELY (and encourage President Hu Jintao to do likewise), do not be slaves of oil and nuclear industries (like us Finns), build up the economy with green energy and sustainable development... (By the way, does anyone talk about "sustainable development any more, or is it too 1980's?)

Yeah, there's a lot to be done.

I wish I knew how the Kremlin will react! They must be dumbfounded: "What happened?", Putin is screaming. "A black guy? Why couldn't they organise the elections like we do in Russia: tell people who is the only candidate to vote for? But in the USA people actually voted, like, the citizens themselves went to cast their votes? How ridiculous. How could they allow this to happen? What is this sh*t – democracy, what's that?"

You've come a long way, baby! I remember I actually cried at the end of the Roots Tv series. And again when I read the book. This still is one of the best historical half-biografies I have ever read.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Yes yes yes you can!

Hello, Charleston! Hello, West Virginia! It is so good to be here. In the last debate, John McCain felt the need to declare that he's not President Bush. And just yesterday, John McCain actually went so far as to try to compare Barack Obama to George W. Bush. As my granddaughter says: Hello? John McCain is now attacking the Bush budget and fiscal policies. Folks, this is as crazy as the Sundance Kid attacking Butch Cassidy!
– Joe Biden in Charleston a week ago

I feel sorry for Newman & Redford. How terrible to be compared with McCain & Bush.

In the debate this week, my opponent felt the need to inform me that he's not President Bush. And in fairness, I don't blame Senator McCain for all of President Bush's mistakes. After all, he's only voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time.
– Barack Obama in St Louis a week ago

Go for Obama!


I'm so excited!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

In the Heart Of Darkness

A good friend said the other day he does not like the saying "one gets what one deserves", especially when brutal, unfair violence is sort of accepted with this saying: A husband killing his wife becauce "the bitch deserved it", or others saying "she deserved it because she did not leave him". A kid being tortured because she deserved it - she must pay for the sins of earlier generations, or maybe she was born in the wrong culture, and so on.

So many people get totally what they do not deserve: they are suffering from violence, torture, just anything a human being can imagine and even worse.

And we, in the rich Europe, get a lot of what we certainly are not worth of. "Goods", as they are called, even when they do good for no-one, or "products". Whatever you call the well-designed jars and boxes, filled with something that will soon be crap anyway.

These gloomy thoughts took over my mind as I am now under this weekend working at the stupidest fair I have ever been in. Anyone with a bit of sanity would become crazy here. This is all about women's "products for good life".

Cheating and crap, I say. Like over-priced cosmetics; "natural vitamins" (but get them from food and all of them are "natural"), "energy" or "balanced" treatments that promise much but most likely do not deliver (except money for the salesmen); memberships for gyms, the shortest term to get committed to being a year (now that is a clever business con. They sell memberships for lazy but hopeful and easily agitated people, and they can sell much more than actually would ever fit into their fitness dumps). And so on. Get the ugly picture.

I am here with The Books, of course. And I wish I was at home, playing with Funnybunny (who is briefly visiting her grandparents, and that's a really good thing, anyway).

* * * * *

A couple of days before I came across this mind-blowing piece in the Independent:

The deadliest war since Adolf Hitler marched across Europe is starting again – and you are almost certainly carrying a blood-soaked chunk of the slaughter in your pocket. When we glance at the holocaust in Congo, with 5.4 million dead, the clichés of Africa reporting tumble out: this is a "tribal conflict" in "the Heart of Darkness". It isn't. The United Nations investigation found it was a war led by "armies of business" to seize the metals that make our 21st-century society zing and bling. The war in Congo is a war about you.

So, is it because You are worth it? Read Johann Hari's article How We Fuel Africa's Bloodiest War and make up your mind.¨

The Congo River, the flow of which is the biggest after Amazon.

Please find more about the exciting rainforests and peoples - like Pygmies - of Congo here.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Please Please Please!

Xenophobic concervatives were the winners of the municipal elections in Finland, getting 5,4% of the votes – but they started from zero.

And I am happily thinking it is not impossible to leave this country some day.

As even the moon is guarded by the Americans, should McCain win there is no place where to escape this ultimate stupidity and arrogant ignorance so typical of concervative right-win politicians in the USA.

Let's help the people of the USA and push Obama's campaign. I give you, my fellow Europeans, some useful tips:

* Whenever you meet with an American who seems religious Christian, conservative, and you know, Republican-minded, tell him you wish McCain won and McCain is widely supported by your fellow Finns/Swedes/Russians/Nigerians. (I don't know about Sweden and Nigeria, but in Finland there are only few supporters of McCain. In Russia this most likely applies, though.)

=> knowing about the support from foreign countries there is no chance he would vote for McCain.

And you don't need to worry about some foreign newspaper revealing the real truth, because concervative Americans don't read foreign newspapers. Actually, they seldom travel anywhere. So it is not likely you'd met any. Ok, this was not a good piece of advice, but lousy.

Denali National Park in Alaska

* But this is a good one: Sisters, let your hair down, add some curls or cut it short. If you have longer hair, wear it in messy-looking style Heather Locklear used to have in 1990's, as if suggesting you have had sex only a minute ago. (This hairstyle is still awfully popular in Sweden, especially among ladies in their 50s.)

=> even in remote corners of Northern Lapland DO NOT get mixed with fans of Sarah Palin and thus channel positive energy into her camp of heavily armed religious lunatics.

=> But if you actually meet a supporter of hers, tie your hair up on your head and tell her you adore Sarah Palin, and when Alaska is transformed into a huge oil field the Russian oligarks (and smaller players now buying houses by the big lakes in eastern Finland) will quickly build their datchas in Alaska as well, since for them the Northern USA feels even more like home, at the same time being the country of their dreams. (And boy, aren't they religious, too. And when it comes to Palin's beloved hobby hunting I bet some Russkie oligarks would love to join the team.)

* * *

I just have to end this post by saying Please, Please, Please: go for Obama, please. Yes you can!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"It Should Be All Over". Please Don't Blow It This Time!

After a lengthy period of hectic duties; bookfairs in Turku, Frankfurt and Helsinki, travelling, organising, even partying (haha something easy, too!), I am doing my best in trying to recover and get back to normal.

Just as if I knew what the so-called normal is.

* * *

(President of the United States, David Palmer would be happy with the latest developments in the USA election circus.)

* * *

Normal? Besides being with Miss Funnybunny. She has suddenly become big enough to really start missing her mom and dad. And she quite bluntly tells us that. Which makes leaving her, even for a couple of days, more and more difficult. As it should, I know. Fortunately she likes being with the ones she has stayed with (THANK YOU EVER SO MUCH!), so we don't really need to worry about her. Just miss her.

I finally got a new laptop, so I can do some top-quality blogging at home, too. Or in a hotel, like the following weeekend, when I am working at a - surprise, surprise - fair, in Tampere, central Finland. (It's not a book fair this time, but something totally else. Since I'm more than a bit embarrassed of being lured to go there, I will not get into more details about this now.)

Miss Funnybunny will be first coming with me, and after a day leaving with her dad to see the grandparents, so I will not have to suffer from the ugliest guilty feeling. That's pretty helpful.

* * *

The US election polls are making the world anxious. Despite the predictions anything can happen. The unpredictable and the unpredictably horribly stupid has happened before.

"Mark Steel: I'm frozen with fear – could Obama still lose the election?

The Republicans have had the worst campaign possible. It should be all over.

I'm still cacking myself. I know all the commentators are saying Obama's already won but I find myself scouring the internet for reassuring polls, and there'll be an article from Nevada quoting a truck driver that's supporting McCain, and I'm like a hypochondriac that's discovered a lump, frozen with fear and convinced this means the Republicans will win and reintroduce slavery and make it illegal for any creature to evolve.

Because it ought to be utterly totally wrapped up, as the Republicans have had the worst campaign that could ever be possible. The candidate looked like there couldn't possibly be anyone in the country more idiotic, but he scoured the continent, found someone who was and made her his deputy. Then a disastrous economic crisis began weeks before the election while they're in charge, then their own side started deserting to Obama, they've been caught spending half the economy on dresses, but they're STILL only a few per cent behind.

Scary, isn't it? But please, please, dear Americans, please don't blow it this time.

(You can read about Mark Steel's heartache in the Independent of today, linked here.)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

"She Is Still With Us"

Sorry for silence. Miss Funnybunny accidentally broke my laptop, and I have been far too busy to write this at work. (The insurance will cover a new one - I have just beeen to busy to buy the new one!)

But no time for silence. Today is marked as the second anniversary of the murder of Anna Politkovskaya. Therefore I must publish the following reminder written by my dear friend Oksana Chelysheva.

* * * *

On the second anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya's murder I feel like speaking up on those who are still alive. This year I felt more inclined to commemorate her on her birthday and to raise other people's fates on her death day.
Anna Politkovskaya is one of them as here assassins fail to erase her voice, her views and her deeds as well as her charm from her friends' memory.

For me personally Anna is one of those few who will never cease to exist. She is still alive as she is with us in her articles, in her small granddaughter who was named after her. Even the hatred of those who are hiding their shadows behind statements on Anna's "insignificance" and "damaging Putin's Russia's positive image" can't destroy the voice of Anna.
At the same time, I can't accept this kind of post-mortal symbolism of the person who often felt too lonely and even marginalized being called "too passionate", "too radical", "too much involved" and not very "diplomatic" unlike a huge crowd of those who prefer to balance the circumstances rather than call on their changing.
She was often listened to without being heard. And it is also the responsibility of those who could have done a lot more to stop Russia's sliding first to autocracy and now to despotism by just calling the developments in Putin's Russia by their real names…

Anna wanted to live, to enjoy life as fully as such a bright person could, to continue her often desperate attempts to help out those who didn't have public recognition of the level she had.

Their number is increasing rapidly. More and more people are being killed without any hope that their deaths would be ever investigated and the guilty would be ever brought to account. People are being taken into custody under falsified charges. They are more and more often subjected to enforced psychiatric treatment. They are being labeled as supporters of terrorism and traitors of Russian like it happened to terrorism survivors from the Voice of Beslan and Nord-Ost public associations.

Magomed Evloev, the owner of an independent Ingush website, was killed while in police custody on 31 August 2008. The murder is crying for impartial investigation, to ensure that the circumstances under which he died are brought to light and that those who are responsible for his death are charged and tried in accordance with the law. Nevertheless, the outrageous extrajudicial execution perpetrated at day light is declared to be "a death caused by accident". On October 6, life of another Ingush opposition leader was attempted. The car in which Akhmed Kotiev was driving was fired at. Fortunately, the bullets have missed this time.

On 25 July 2008, human rights defender Zurab Tsechoev, working for the human rights organization MASHR (peace) in Ingushetia, was taken away from his home in Troitskaia, Ingushetia by armed men, thought to be federal law enforcement officials. A couple of hours later he was found on a roadside near Magas, the capital of Ingushetia, with serious injuries. He had to be hospitalized. Is there any hope that the perpetrators of this act against Zurab Tsechoev would be ever identified and brought to justice? Much depends on what kind of response the authorities of Russia will get from the international community and whether this response would be limited to some mild rhetoric and expressions of concerns.

Late on 1 August 2008, an arson attack was allegedly made on the flat of human rights defender Dmitrii Kraiukhin from the town of Orel in the Central Russian Federal District. The arsonists had also allegedly tried to block the entrance door. Luckily, Dmitrii Kraiukhin was reportedly not in the flat, but his relatives who were, were able to alert the fire brigade in time. So far, to Amnesty International's knowledge, no criminal investigation into this case has been undertaken, as the authorities allegedly considered the damage too insignificant to warrant a criminal investigation. However, this is not an isolated incident as far as threats to Dmitrii Kraiukhin are concerned.

On 14 August 2008, unknown assailants threw a brick through the window of the flat in Nizhnii Novgorod where human rights activist Stanislav Dmitrievskii lives. Luckily, nobody was hurt. At the same time, the entrance of his apartment building was covered with abusive language and threats against Stanislav Dmitrievskii. Actually, it was all painted with swastikas. A criminal investigation into this attack has been opened. However, I don't believe that it would bring any results. There have been several cases initiated into death threats that both Stanislav and I have received in the last three years. All to no avail. I have heard various investigators telling me, "You do understand… the circumstances. We would not be able to identify those who are behind the threats".

They won't be able because they don't want to. Because they are afraid to get their own voice. Because they are not masters of themselves, in their words. Because they are ready to implement whatever kind of order as they are just loyal serfs of their master.

And it is in your hands to influence them. They should be under moral pressure from all people of good will. They should know that they will never be accepted and welcome outside Russia for their readiness and willingness to be on orders.

They should know that even their property bought in Finland, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, Montenegro or Czech Republic and Slovakia would not make them your neighbors. They should know that not everything could be purchased, no matter how wealthy they are. They should be aware that you have honour and dignity and that you are ready to stand up for them. They should be denounced and put to shame.

Oksana Chelysheva

Monday, September 01, 2008

Footage: Yevloev speaking. Suomenlinna, Helsinki, 2008.

Magomed Yevloev, the Ingushetian lawyer who fought for constitutional rights for his people, was killed yesterday in Nazran by the local police forces.

He visited Suomenlinna, Helsinki last summer. Please see the footage on You Tube, linked also here.

Statement on Yevloev

Statement on the killing of Magomed Yevloev

Finnish-Russian Civic Forum, 31.08.2008

The Finnish-Russian Civic Forum is shocked to hear about the killing today of Magomed Yevloev, the publisher of the Ingushetiya.ru website.
Yevloev's main contribution was to defend legality and the constitutional rights of all citizens of his republic. He stood away from the wave of violence raging in Ingushetiya. He was a man of peace in a region plagued by relentless and uncontrollable conflict.

Yevloev did not consider himself a dissident but said that it was only his duty to report events as truthfully as possible. Due to his extraordinary courage, Ingushetians were able to tell the world how flawed the election to the Russian State Duma in Ingushetiya had been.

We remember Magomed Yevloev as a friend after he participated in the second Finnish-Russian Civic Forum in Helsinki in June 2008, speaking to the public and the press about the problems of censorship in today's Russia.

We send our most heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of
Magomed Yevloev.

Helsinki, 31 August 2008

Finnish-Russian Civic Forum

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Magomed Yevloev dead

According to the information I have recently received, Magomed Yevloev was killed this morning in Nazran, Ingushetia. Yevloev was a lawyer and publisher of the website "ingushetia.ru".

Yevloev was detained by the police at the airport in Nazran, and he was later delivered to the hospital - again by the police, it seems - where a wound in his head resulted to his death. According to the hospital he had been shot.

Mr. Yevloev visited us, the FinRosForum meeting last summer in Suomenlinna (Sveaborg), Helsinki. I will add a quote from him into IStori soon after I have watched his speech with my fellow Forum guys. EDIT: the footage is here.

Please see the Kasparov website for the news (in Russian).

* * * * *

This little princess is Anna Stepanovna Mazepa (later: Mrs Politkovskaya), age four, in New York where his father was an ambassador of the CCCP.

Yesterday it would have been Anna's 50th birthday.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Yes they can nominate him!

I have a dream! Even though I am not a Finnish Social Democrat, well-known for their new campaign made out of wishes that must come true if they are to continue among the hard-core achievers in the Finnish politics.

A Historic Moment. I can feel the winds of change.

Reuters today, in the Independent:

To shouts of "Yes we can," Democrats nominated Barack Obama yesterday as their presidential candidate in a historic first for a black American.

The following points belong to Obama's goals (quoted from his website, under the title of Foreign Policy):

# Strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: Obama will crack down on nuclear proliferation by strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty so that countries like North Korea and Iran that break the rules will automatically face strong international sanctions.

# Toward a Nuclear Free World: Obama will set a goal of a world without nuclear weapons, and pursue it. Obama will always maintain a strong deterrent as long as nuclear weapons exist. But he will take several steps down the long road toward eliminating nuclear weapons. He will stop the development of new nuclear weapons; work with Russia to take U.S. and Russian ballistic missiles off hair trigger alert; seek dramatic reductions in U.S. and Russian stockpiles of nuclear weapons and material; and set a goal to expand the U.S.-Russian ban on intermediate-range missiles so that the agreement is global.

I wonder how Russia will take all this. I wonder. A black candidate reducing nuclear stockpiles. The Nashi kids must be dumbfounded, too.

I am afraid the Cold War is alive and well, and it is the Eastern block strenghtening it, this time.

A missile seeking sunshine in its silo.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ruhnu (Runö)

This summer's Estonia Flower tour (Blomsterresan) headed as far as to Ruhnu, an island of 64 inhabitants in the middle of the Gulf of Riga. The surface of the island is 11,9 km², length 5,5 km and width 3,5 km.

It was excellent. We were 30 Finns, the majority of us (all but Mr HP, Miss Funnybunny and me) Swedish speaking Finns. Swedish as their mother tongue, Finnish as nationality.

Workers, unite!

One of us had to leave from the Tallinn harbour back to Helsinki with a helicopter and continue to Moscow, and to Georgia from there. The newest war in Caucasus broke just when we had arrived in Estonia.

So, from Tallinn, we 29 people drove by bus to the Munalaia harbour near Pärnu and took a small ship to Ruhnu. According to the information given by the captain the ship is not to leave the harbour if the wind becomes faster than 15 m/sec. But, as we think the case was, in the middle of the sea the wind was much heavier than the limit.

But I think we all would have become seasick anyway.

As we all did. So what. Recovery starts quickly, just when one has jumped onto earth. It took only three hours to get to Ruhnu, and - if you don't count the wind - the weather was mild, warm, almost sunny, and the water (= the Baltic splashing all over us) was warm, too.

Mr HP and Miss Funnybunny relax on the deck.

Our house. Our little family lived downstairs, with another couple next door, and four people upstairs. We all lived in cottages like this. loooks like from the Lord of the Rings, doesn't it? "Shire" I mean.

Our Swimming Society swam at 7 in the morning. As we did in Pärnu, and had shots of brandy afterwards. "Must celebrate the End of the Season", as our President explained.

Limo rand (Limo beach), Ruhnu.

Friendly fox, pal of Miss Funnybunny's.

A tromb is arriving. Luckily we sailed to the opposite direction.

Before being back in the North, we still had some important things to do:

firstly, to see a garden...

then, to enjoy nightlife on board (Tallinn -> Helsinki).

Last and least, the Sveaborg (Suomenlinna) fortress very near home sweet home, in Helsinki, Finland (despite the Swedish flag of the ship).

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Strange Assault In Nizhny Novgorod. Stanislav Dimitrievsky targeted again.

Dear Readers

The Following has been was sent to me by Oksana Chelysheva, a Russian journalist and Human Rights specialist. She is currently living in Helsinki under the Writer in Exile program of the Finnish PEN. I publish this with Chelysheva's agreement, and please feel free to quote or forward the text (or this link).

She feels safer, and so do the members of the movement in Nizhny, knowing the news on assault are actively spreading in the West.

The photo was taken by me, IStori, a year ago in Helsinki, when Dimitrievsky was visiting the Finnish Human Rights and Peace movements.

"On 14 August at 4.20 am unidentified people assaulted the flat where Stanislaw Dmitrievskiy, the chair of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, and his family live. The flat is located on the first floor of a five-storied apartment building.

Assaulters smashed the window pane of the living room with a silicate brick. The brick smashed the outside pane. The inside pane sustained the blow. Thus, the brick fell down outside the flat. The brick was painted red, with swastikas and numerous insulting and threatening graffiti.

There were the following inscriptions on the entry door, "Dmitrievskiy vermin traitor of Russia ap.24 Believe it!" Swastika followed them. There was an inscription on the kitchen window pane, "Get away!" and a swastika. The inscription on the side part of the door (next to the code key) stated, "Dmitrievskiy is a whore". There was another insulting inscription below the kitchen window on the wall of the house.

Dmitrievsky's neighbors claim that they spotted two suspicious people. They explained that they were woken up by barking of the dog that the residents of the apartment building have been taking care of. As they thought that those might be car thieves, they looked out and threatened that they would shoot at them from an air-rifle. As it was still very dark, they could discern only the silhouettes of the two people dressed in sport suit, one of them having luminescent pigment on the side stripes.

Dmitrievskiy immediately called the police. The patrol police arrived in some forty minutes and the investigators came to the site of the accident only at around 7 am. They only scraped off some paint to examine it and took the brick with them as evidence. In their words, the case will be investigated by a local policeman. The photo footage of all the inscriptions and the site was carried out by the Nijny Novgorod Committee against Torture.

We connect the assault with the coming publication of the research into the international criminal law that the staff of the organization has been working on for the last a year and a half as well as the open letter to Vladimir Lukin, the Russian ombudsman, with regard to the armed conflict with Georgia."

Oksana Chelysheva

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Finncon 2008

M. John Harrison. Farah Mendlesohn. Charles Vess. And Cheryl Morgan, in Finland again! She has written an excellent report on the con, please see this entry in her blog. (And THANKS, Cheryl, for you beautiful words!)

Lots of splendid presentations, 7000 participants, anime fans in strange costumes, discussions, signings, scifi fandom dressed in black as usual, cat ears, meeting friends – old and new ones – in beer sessions in bars or in the countryside with or without sauna...

And the sunny city of Tampere. What more could you ask for in a literary get-together?

M. John Harrison in the Lenin Museum, Tampere. The only Lenin museum in the world.

Petri Hiltunen analyzing War. Definitely.

M. John Harrison, Edward James and Charles Vess waiting for their turn to go to sauna. Ladies went first.

Mr and Mrs Guest of Honor. And guess what it is behind them, a small hut down the hill? Sauna, of course.

The Finnish Sauna

Wherever I spend my weekends or holidays in Finland, I never fail to go to sauna, and I always swim, if there's just some water nearby. (Usually there is.)

"In the sauna wear your birthday suit. Nakedness is natural. Sweating makes swimsuits uncomfortable.

There are no exact rules of behaviour but the ritual is meant to be relaxing. Hurry and noise are out of the question and so is reckless competition about who stands heat best.

It is a good idea to begin with a wash or shower; a seat towel for the hot room is also useful.

The temperature should be 80-90°C; ten minutes at a time will be enough. Air humidity is regulated by ladling small doses of water onto the stove stones. Warming up and cooling off can be repeated as many times as feels good. Whisking adds to the pleasure."

These pictures are from a summer cottage in the middle of the lake Päijänne.

1. Approach the sauna.

"The basic sauna ritual is the same as it always was: warming up, sweating, taking löyly vapour and whisking, washing and cooling off. Cooling off nowadays often includes swimming. Many people like to cool off in the open air, and there are also brave ones who want to roll in the snow or take a dip in the sea or lake through a hole in the ice."

2. Take your clothes off and get in. (If you feel very dirty you might want to swim at first too, like I usually do.)

3. Go swimming. Then go back to sauna. Then swim again. And go back. And so on.

"Sauna bathing does not only clean the body but also purifies the mind. The bather's frame of mind after a leisurely relaxed sauna ritual could be best described as euphoric. It is like a rebirth; all unpleasant feelings fall away and you feel at peace with the whole world. This is what Finns mean by the care of the soul received in the sauna."

4. Admire the view, as it must be late evening or night when you finish with the bathing.

5. Tomorrow it will be a new day! Start heating the sauna (starting time depending on the type of sauna: sauna with a chimney, smoke sauna, or sauna for continuos heating), so it'll be ready in the evening again.

The quotes with facts are from the site of the Finnish Sauna Society.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Empty Desperation of Modern Life

Garfield minus Garfield?

It looks a little scary. But whoever got this idea, I admit the person is a genious, and Garfield strips just got better this way.

"Who would have guessed that when you remove Garfield from the Garfield comic strips, the result is an even better comic about schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life? Friends, meet Jon Arbuckle. Let’s laugh and learn with him on a journey deep into the tortured mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness in a quiet American suburb."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Spying geeks

Hallå, hallååååå!?

In the Geeks are sexy website (thanks, TN!) there is a headline saying World’s oldest blogger dies at 108 years old.

EDIT: This article is hilarious! The writer does not respect much the skills of senior citizens: "It’s amazing to me that someone that old was persuaded to start a blog in the first place or that she even understands how the internet works. My grandmother who is 82 doesn’t understand computers or the internet at all."

Well, if you say you understand how the internet works, I suspect you are a liar. Knowing how it works does not lead to understanding. And, you don't really have to understand the net to become a blogger, like you don't have to know how to build a computer to become a writer. (Not anymore you don't, when the civilisation has Apple computers to enjoy with. Do you remember the time when Word Perfect was used, with PC's? Oh those horrendous memories.)

But was she the oldest? Perhaps I am 109 and a little offended for being left out. You would not know, really.

So far there is no law obliging bloggers to reveal one's real indentity. Yet. Seen what's going on in Sweden? In Sweden there is now a law that instructs all telephone and Internet operators to deliver a copy of all phone and Internet communication crossing Swedish borders to the Swedish intelligence service FRA.

Please read the article titled "Sweden is listening to all internet and phone conversations" in iNorden site.

Soon I'll create fake fingerprints for myself, just for fun.

* * * * *

See The Life Of Riley to expand you understanding of the internet, oh no, sorry, of life.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Next Killer?

This time birds are not to blame, but tourists.

It's not just the nuclear armageddons or the dreadful causes of climate change I am so afraid of.

I wasn't this easily shaken earlier. Years ago I was thinking about travelling all over the world working in refugee camps and disaster zones.

After having a baby, every headline with words like "killer" makes me sick with anxiety.

The dream of travelling all over the world is changing into buying an interrail ticket with my dear little Miss Funnybunny. Needless to say, I do not wish her to see many disaster areas.

* * *

Black Swans. I'm also thinking about them right now. After telling you, with photos, how to use the Finnish Sauna properly - some light-hearted stuff in the middle of all this agony, you see - I'll be posting about Black Swans. You know what they are? A hint: Not birds.

* * *

World warned over killer flu pandemic

By Ben Russell, Political Correspondent, Independent
Monday, 21 July 2008

The world is failing to guard against the inevitable spread of a devastating flu pandemic which could kill 50 million people and wreak massive disruption around the globe, the Government has warned.

In evidence to a House of Lords committee, ministers said that early warning systems for spotting emerging diseases were "poorly co-ordinated" and lacked "vision" and "clarity". They said that more needed to be done to improve detection and surveillance for potential pandemics and called for urgent improvement in rapid-response strategies.

The Government's evidence appeared in a highly critical report from the Lords Intergovernmental Organisations Committee, which attacked the World Health Organisation (WHO) as "dysfunctional" and criticised the international response to the threat of an outbreak of disease which could sweep across the globe.

The Government said: "While there has not been a pandemic since 1968, another one is inevitable." Ministers said it would could kill between two and 50 million people worldwide and that such an outbreak would leave up to 75,000 people dead in Britain and cause "massive" disruption.

Please read the rest at the Independent site.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Be Kind Rewind & Sweding films

Who 'ya gonna call? Ghostbusters!

I did see Be Kind Rewind. It was good! Heartwarming story of how to make life more bearable. Go and see.

The genuine major theme was Sweding films. Sweding? "You take what you like and you remake something from scratch using whatever you can get your hands on."

Okay, the plot in brief. No destructive spoilers here, I promise:

New Jersey. Current time. Two guys, Mike and Jerry, seemingly looking for trouble, help in a video rental store. Suddenly a strange electromagnetic phenomenon, caused by Jerry (as excellent Jack Black as ever) and the powerplant nearby, empty all the VHS tapes. In order not to dissapoint some - unfortunately very few - customers the guys are obliged to start re-making the films that have vanished.

Those "Sweded" (see the web site) ones are only 20 minutes, but hey, they are so much better than the originals. (Who would like to watch Ghostbusters anyway? Driving Miss Daisy? Rush Hour II? The Lion King? No idea. But I'd love to see any of these Sweded.) The Sweded films, but of course, become more popular than the originals. But not at all surprisingly the guys are soon in trouble again. In BIG trouble.

To make history they must Swede the history of the beloved hero of the main character's, Fats Waller, as well as the history their own with the history of the whole neighbourhood.

* * *

"Use the weapons at hand." This is what Francis Ford Coppola said in Sodankylä, in Midnight Sun Film Festivals, 2002. Never argue saying you can't do some work of art because you lack some equipment.

See: someone has Sweded Be Kind Rewind! You will hear this lovely tune at the end of the film.

* * *

Vaiheinen was there, too. Which films you are going to have Sweded first? (Give me a camera!) My list goes like this: Apocalypse. Now. (Imagine the pyrotechniques!) Jurassic Park. La Dolce Vita. The Searchers. And ALL Empress Sissi films, but instead of the usual 20 min they can be only five minutes each. And Terminator II! (I want to do both the evil robot and Linda Hamilton.)

Mike and Jerry Sweded Last Tango In Paris. How 'bout that.

A scene in the first version of Apocalypse. Now. before it was Sweded.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

"Where are they taking us?"

Strong leaders with intellectual missions and great understanding of the future?

Thanks, M.U. for mailing me this link!

Look at the West's leaders - and be afraid

By Charles Moore, the Telegraph.

I don't lose sleep over nuclear or environmental Armageddon. It takes something much smaller to frighten me. This week, it was a photograph of the G8 leaders at their summit in Hokkaido.

IStori: But I do. I lose sleep over thinking about the big RBMK type Leningrad reactors in Sosnvyi Bor, Russia. I tend to stay awake thinking if Miss Funnybunny will ever be able to visit Amsterdam or whether it will be under water when she has reached adulthood.

Back to the Telegraph.

Charles Moore: It was not a physical thing. True, the attempt to make Silvio Berlusconi look younger has had the strange side-effect of making him look dead. True, Nicolas Sarkozy, perhaps distracted by his love for Carla Bruni, seemed quite alarming.

IStori: I tried to take a look at this family photo in the web but the quality was not good enough and the world leaders were the sice of flies. What's wrong with Berlusconi's appearance? The same surgeon Janice Dickinson and Lara Flynn Boyle are using?

Charles Moore: It was simply the thought that these people are in charge of our civilisation. Twenty years ago, the line-up included Reagan, Kohl, Mitterrand and Mrs Thatcher. Today, we have in George W. Bush a president who has literally and metaphorically used up his country's credit in the world. Angela Merkel runs Germany with decency but impotence. Mr Sarkozy is a walking dictionary definition of the word "mountebank". And then there is Mr Brown.

IStori: Why is Mrs Thatcher so respected nowadays? George W. has been just a joke for years.

Charles Moore: What do these leaders want? What do they believe? Where are they taking us? Do they understand what is happening?

IStori: Power. Having powerful friends is everything. The destruction, cultural poverty and future with even bigger problems. No.

Charles Moore: One of the essential gifts of leadership is to explain the state of the world truthfully, and then to say something about how it might be improved. In the 1980s, such leadership was provided.

IStori: Hah! See my previous post. And read the rest of this article in the Telegraph site.

Films. Afganistan, Afganistan, and Paris.

Congressman Charlie Wilson from TEXAS (!!!!!) and AK 47 in Afganistan.

We did see the Kite Runner, MR HP and I. It was quite ok. I usually like everything that has something to do with the end of the Cold War, The Soviet Union, Russia, Central Asia, 1970's and 80's... You get the idea.

This one lacked one big thing: showing the enormous guilt the main character must have been feeling. Or if he was not. I'll check out and read the book.

* * * * *

I rented two films yesterday. The first one I watched was an American political film, supposing explaining the cold war era, but it was not explaining much, neither was it artistic, peculiarly interesting or original.

Surprisingly I did not mind its strong right-wing ideology, hating both communism and the Russians in general. I forgive that now; the destruction and demolition of people and culture carried out by the Red Army in the film in Afganistan was outrageous, and you know what: in the 80's fear and hatred were as much hand in hand as today, but now the western hatred of communism has been equally wrongly changed into hatred of Islamic cultures, and with the American haters there are the racists groups in Russia, too), and it must be allowed to be filmed in documentary fiction, or how would one call that genre.

BUT. Instead of answering anything, it raised more questions (Iran-Contras? Who did train the Mujahedeen? The strong role of Pakistan that led into more trouble in 2001? The Taliban after the war?), which could have been a good sign, but in this case I think the most interesting questions were not included in the film at all, or were just small jokes in witty, well-written conversations.

And neither the manuscript not the actors were ok. (Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts! Mercy, mercy me. But luckily the CIA agent Gust Avrakotos is played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Very good, he was!)

What a pity, since Charlie Wilson's War was based on a true story, and I could not help feeling I'd like to hear the guy himself talk about those times, the US Congress and his visits to Afganistan.

I pretty much agree with this comment in the Guardian, not read by me before this morning:

If popular art of this kind reflects what a nation has come to understand about its behaviour in the recent past, this film shows an America that has learned nothing from events, except that the principle that "My enemy's enemy is my friend" is not always a sound basis for decision-making. True, the film derives its energy and interest from America's current dilemmas in Afghanistan and Iraq, but it has, in the end, little to say, directly or obliquely, about them.

Looking back at the 1980s, what is striking is that both America and Russia thought they were struggling with each other, while what was really happening was that both states were trying and failing to cope with powerful new forces in the non-western world. Those forces were taking on the more marked ethnic and religious guises which are very familiar to us today. ...
(Pls read the rest in here, the Guardian site.)


I miss Paris. That's what I noticed again and again when watching the other rental film. But this film was not good, despite the fact the actors were very god, my favourite being Anne Parillaud.

Reading carefully the back cover texts, I was not expecting this film to be a romantic comedy. I am not at all a fan of romantic comedies. But unfortunately it turned out, at times, to be something of the sort.



But this evening: Be Kind Rewind.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Kabul in The Kite Runner.

My Mom has come back from her summer cottage to Helsinki for a few days. The not-so-beautiful, a bit cold (unusually cold) and windy days of this, still early summer (even though this summer will soon be over...) made the Asikkala archipelago in Lake Päijänne seem boring and not very appealing week by week. So, what she really needs is to see Miss Funnybunny again! (Read IStori backwards: we have been at the Midsummer nights film festivals, in Vienna, and in Mr HP's country home. Among other places. Granny has received several postcards from Funnybunny, with confessions like "Dear Granny, I love You so. You are so dear to me. I will always love you." As an assistant of Miss Funnybunny typing the kinds of texts has been my duty.)

So this - granny visiting - means Mr HP and I get to go to the movies.

We are to see The Kite Runner this evening.

Tomorrov afternoon Mr HP and Funnybunny will leave for the Finnish countryside for a few days. Without me. I am to do some important organising here. (Organising work, home, life. Putting things in order, giving up working on stuff that will never work for me. Starting a new project.) And I am going to see some films. My list for three-four days goes:

* No Country For Old Men.
You'd better see the trailer. Javier Bardem said at the Oscar party he will eternally thank the Coen bros for that terrible hairstyle - the style helping him to win the Oscar, he thought. And that way he will never have his hair again, he swore. (Not seen the film? See the trailer, see the trailer.)

* Be Kind Rewind.
Jack Black was great in The School Of Rock. Yes, really!!!!

* Once.
I still have a soft spot for musicals. And Dublin. Ireland. (Never been there, though.)

Maybe later these, too:

* Muumi ja vaarallinen juhannus (Momin and a Dangerous Midsummer). Miss Funnybunny has already noticed this one, and she'd love to see it. (Next week, she will.) She watches Momin films at home as often as possible (read: every evening).

* Sex And The City.
But of course! LH has already promised to join me.

* Indiana Jones, the newest.
You should have seen Mr HP's face when I suggested this. He looked at me as if I had asked whether he'd like to join Bollywood dancing class: "never in my lifetime" sort of face.

I don't blame him. After the ones I listed, with enchanting, talented and personal actors I am not sure I can watch anyone as dull as Harrison Ford.

Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz do not seem to skip their workout routines.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Finnish Countryside

Despite of my over-booked summer schedules consisting of work, humanitarian duties, festivals, travels, parties and celebrations, I was able to get here for a longer weekend.

Clever Mr HP had a slightly longer country holiday with miss Funnybunny.

The front yard. Needs more flowers, and there's plenty behind the fence.

Miss Funnybunny's gazebo.

...and one of the five corners of it.

Sauna by the river.

Lauhanvuori national park.