Friday, 22 November 2019

OODI* we love you: Helsinki's LIBRARY3.0

Hitchcock's 'The 30 Steps' was playing at OODI. It would the first time I'd see it on the Big Screen. And my first visit to the most talked-about  building in Helsinki. The exterior wowed right off the bat with its bold, casual, 'come-on-in' attitude. We went to the cafe on the main floor, bought a glass of wine and looked around. For people of a certain age, like me, it was 'shock of the new'. No Books**. For kids, all the high-tech 3D printers, power tools, music-making equipment, and more, it must be their dream-playground. OODI is no ordinary library.

Eki and I worked on a proposal to make a doc about the library and ALA – the architects who won the competition. I went to their office and met the young partners:Juha Gronholm, Antti Nousjaki, Samuli Woolston.  It was the kind of place you wanted to plunk yourself down and go to work. Like OODI, it was casual, chic, functional, friendly and international. YLE turned it down. They said the library would get so much attention they didn't need to commission a doc. They were right.  OODI was named the best library in the world. And  best new building in Finland.  ALA is on a roll. They keep 51 architects busy. Their commissions include the University library in Lyon, France and the new entrance terminal at Helsinki's airport. When I asked Samuli what  clinched the deal for ALA to win the competition, he said the judges were impressed that they had got so much into just three floors.

Books are on the 3rd floor.  Every thee months a part of the 2.3 million collection changes. One librarian I talked to thought it was a mistake not to have music. But the book floor is so popular they sometimes run out of stock. From the balcony  you have some of the best views of the city. The 2nd floor is where you make and do stuff and use all those hight-tech power tools, 3D printers, music-making equipment. Orr just sit quietly and do your homework. The main floor has the cinema, a concert hall (the night we were there they had a jam-packed rock concert), a cafe-restaurant that faces the plaza with a direct view of the Parliament. Commissioned by the Helsinki City Council to celebrate 100 years of Finnish independence (05/12/1917 – 05/12/2017)7, you couldn't find a better symbol of freedom. Her's to OODI. Kippis. Skol. Cheers.

*OODI (F), ODI (S), ODE (E)

**The NYT's writer wrote: 'Where are the books?'

Sources: ALA, New York Times, internet, Joni Hertell, Robert Pettus, personal experience

Next week: GRETA THURNBERG: Climate Change JOAN of ARC, or just a kid with an idee fixe?

Friday, 8 November 2019

'and the winner is.....PUTIN'

You never know who's inside... ***

PUTIN is sittin' pretty. The US and Great Britain, those two paragons of democracy, are in chaos. Putin can't quite get his head around his good luck. He knew Trump was a chump, now Boris Johnson, leader of the Brexit mess, has turned out to be a mini-T. Making it happen was was so simple. It almost took the fun out of the game.  Messing in the 2016 American election was easy-peasy. Brexit was a breeze. And look how it paid off. Great Britain is in turmoil. And Trump's famous logo should be: MAKE AMERICA HATE AGAIN.

Imagine, in the US, a Purple Heart hero (wounded in Iraq), who testified in the Impeachment inquiry*, is trashed by some Rep Trump-cult-ers. They said he was unpatriotic, and maybe a spy (Lt.Col. Alexander Vindman) While the Commander-in-chief, Donald Trump, says his Viet Nam was avoiding STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). The Trump is a gusher that keeps spewing out black-gold for Putin.

In GB, Brexiter Boris Johnson has called for an early election. There's a good chance he'll win a majority and create more havoc. With the line-up of Dem presidential candidates  – not a rock star in the bunch – T has a good chance to win in 2020. And make more big mischief. But a small black cloud hangs over Putin's rosy world. He's done such a bang-up job screwing the enemies, those oligarchs who pull Putin's strings will make him hang in there. Much more fun to hang out at his posh digs in Biarritz, spend his laundered billions, guzzle ice-cold Billionaire vodka (7.25 million a bottle) and make the scene with...

*Eki bet me 100 euros that there would be an impeachment trial. I lost. He also bet 100 euros that Trump would be impeached. I hope he wins that one too.

*** The cover image is Vladimir as the chestburster alien from "Spaceballs" by Mel Brooks (1987), which itself was a homage to chestburster alien from "Alien" by Ridley Scott (1979). Meta-meta-meta level visual commentary, eh?

Sources: Washington Post, CNN, BBC, speculation

Next week: OODI we love you: Helsinki's library 2.0


I'm not into conspiracy theories. If I were to change my mind, this would be a perfect place to start. Because to an outside observer, what Trump does in the US, what Boris does in the GB, and what the True Finns Party does here in Finland (and it's ilk elsewhere in Europe) is pretty much indistinguishable from what Russian spies would do if they were put in the position of power in western countries. 

In all three, there's also some pretty credible evidence of actual collaboration with the Russians. 

In Trump's case, the Mueller report did not find him guilty of criminal conspiracy or coordination, but did not exonerate him either. He might be innocent, or he might have colluded below the criminal threshold, but it also might just be that his obstruction of justice was successful at hiding a crime. Regardless, his conduct has been above and beyond anything Putin could have reasonably hoped: he's weakened NATO, weakened the international cooperation, largely destroyed the US government and divided the nation to the brink of no repair. Job well done.

We will see what the impeachment brings to light. Entertainment, yeah!

Boris has been very successful at ruining GB too, and dividing the population. And if the Brexit really happens, the economic destruction of the nation will be unprecedented. At the same time, his actions have also weakened the European Union slightly, albeit not nearly as much as they have weakened GB. As the black knight would say, "it's just a flesh wound". But still, the western democracies of Europe are at turmoil, so Boris too has been a good boy at fulfilling Putin's desires.

Finally, the True Finns (annoying name BTW, as if the other 80% of Finns were not truly Finns) have raised a surprisingly large following, which is completely insane. One in five of my fellow countrymen are idiots, science denialists, misogynists and racists, apparently. Which makes me sad. While this bunch has not had enough power to ruin Finland completely yet, they did their best at dismantling the Nordic welfare state as a part of the last government. Luckily, the pendulum swung the other way at the elections, and we currently have a social democrat lead government, who are currently trying to repair the damage - all while the afternoon press and the now opposition right-wing do all in their power to gaslight, not taking responsibility of the carnage. And as said, it is working - on the polls, True Finns are the largest party here right now, which is mindboggling. I really cannot comprehend how Finns can be so stupid. As far as the connection to Putin goes, it looks like the far-right populist parties all over Europe are Putin's stooges, more or less. They have not been as successful at dismantling democracy as Trump and Boris have, at least not yet, but they are doing their best.


Wednesday, 23 October 2019


Did you know that the Hollywood sign is copyrighted, and that
theoretically, you need to pay a fee to show it?

Quentin Tarantino's new movie 'Once Upon a Hollywood'* is a whopping 2:45 min. The Shark and I decided to check it out anyway. Our luck, it was playing at Maxim, Helsinki's haut-cinema that has cushy chairs and tables in-between for drinks and snacks. We bought our wine and settled in for the long haul. Everyone who can read knows the movie takes place in 1969, the year film-star Sharon Tate and some of her pals were murdered by Charles Manson and his girl-gang. So we knew the end before it began. But QT had a lot more to tell us about Hollywood. The pace is slow, laid-back, deliberate.

The scene at the Ranch where Manson and his gang hang out is full of menace and suspense. But long enough to be a short movie. I kept wishing Eki had been in on the edit. The Shark liked it and compared it to the Serge Leone westerns. The movie's slow-pace helped to accentuate how boring, banal and cruel movie-making and life in Hollywood can be. And he nailed the period.

The clothes, the music, the locations are perfect. So are Leonardo di Caprio and Brad Pitt. Di Caprio's has-been, aging B movie actor and Pitt as his minder, fixer, driver, drinking-pal are sure to get Oscar nominations. 10-year-old Julia Butters, who stole her short her scene with di Caprio, should get the Best Supporting Actress award. In fact, the movie is sure to be a top choice for lots of Oscars. But  even if the Shark and the critics loved every 165 minutes, for me, 'Once Upon...' would have been better if Tarantino had followed Eki's rule: Kill your little darlings.

*'Once Upon a Time....' SERGIO LEONE trilogy

Sources: Helsingin Sanomat, New York Times, The Washington Post, the Shark, personal experience

Next week: 'and the WINNER is...PUTIN the IMPALER'

Note: I still haven't seen the film. And will probably wait until it's available for streaming. So, i haven't got much of notes per se. Overall, while i can appreciate the craftsmanship, and understand why Tarantino has his fans, i'm not necessarily one of them. Somehow i feel his films tend to be too self-conscious, perhaps pompous even, screaming "Look, look, *this* is a movie!". And they are also often unnecessarily violent. I do not see how that adds to the experience - or, perhaps i'm just getting soft with age.



Thursday, 19 September 2019

Is Finland SOCIALIST*?

Told a guy I met in LA I lived in Finland. He said, 'You live in a socialist country, you have National health care’.** A couple of years later I had a chance to find out how the health care system worked. A temporary, near-total paralysis, landed me in Meihlahti, the public, university hospital - the only hospital  equipped  to treat Guillain-Barre syndrome. After six weeks, I was sent to a rehab center for another six weeks. The care in both places was excellent and they got me walking again.  The system isn’t perfect, often there are long waits, but it works. No Finn I know would give it up.

Trump has branded Scandinavia ‘socialist’. It’s his weapon of mass destruction against the Democrats. At rallies he rants, ‘America will never be Sweden.’ The crowd roars. When you’ve lived in a Nordic country,  you wonder what’s this guy smoking.  I asked my pro-Trump pal what she thought ‘socialism’ meant. She said, ‘Marxism’. Eki gave me the correct answer. The Oxford English Dictionary said about the same thing (see below).

CNN aired a segment about Finland’s 130-year-old health care system. Their conclusion: it’s good, but it’s expensive. In a stump speech, Bernie Saunders thanked Finland for showing the world national care works.  He and Elizabeth Warren promise medicare-for-all if elected in 2020. I don’t think it’s going to happen. Eki says young US progressive voters want what we have and will vote for it. The Shark told me a lot of Finns go to work abroad. But when they have kids they come back home for the excellent free pre-natal and childcare, top-notch schools, health care, and other public perks. Trump may call it ‘socialism’, most Finns I know call it the GOOD LIFE.

*SOCIALISM (Oxford English dictionary)
A political ad economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.

** On a ‘countries with universal health care’ site, the US was the only developed country without UHC, along with Africa, India, Northern South America.

Sources: CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Washington Post. internet, personal experience



Note: I do not know what CNN has smoked, but the Finnish health care system is NOT expensive, at least when compared to the USA. Quite the contrary, it's dirt cheap. The USA spends yearly about $10 000 per capita on health chare, Finland just about $4000. In other words, health care in US is more than twice as expensive as in Finland. And our system covers everyone, not just the lucky or rich ones.

As far as US politics go, i'm pretty confident that the next president will be Warren or Sanders. Outside his narrow fanbase, after showing his true color, Trump has no support. He would be beaten by pretty much anyone in 2020. Put a pet raccoon against him and it would win. The only democratic candidate that might actually lose against Trump is Biden, who seems to be pretty much as blunder prone and demented as the big T. But i do not think he will be the dem nominee.

The socialistic policies are actually extremely widely supported by the US electorate, as long as you don't call them that. I fail to understand how the term that essentially just means pooling the citizen's resources has become the taboo it is in the US in the first place. The word really should be reclaimed, which Bernie is already doing.

As far as the definition goes, control by the community as a whole does not quite capture it (as, for example, co-ops, mom and pop stores etc. companies that are owned and run by the same people that work there is textbook socialism - but has nothing to do with society's control). The other common definition, "workers owning the means of production" does not get the community side...

Anyway, the proponents of socialistic policies do not usually want the whole system to be changed into a socialistic one. Just the parts that make sense. Like education, health care etc. There are things free markets do well, and both can coexist.

Countries with non-universal insurance system
In this system some citizens have private health insurance, some are eligible for subsidized public health care, while some are not insured at all:



Thursday, 5 September 2019


If your phone is never out of reach, if you text more than 25* times a day, if you wake up at night and check your messages, if you walk and text at the same time, if you whip it out as soon as you sit down, if you'd rather text than talk, you're a serious CP abuser.

Eki has his phone at the ready whenever I’m with him. We were having lunch when I tore into one of my cellphones tirades. I said excessive use was dangerous He went to Google Science. When the answer came back he didn't say, 'You're wrong!' If cellphones don't cause cancer, stenosis of the spine, horn-like bone spurs that grow on the back of your head due to bending your neck for long periods, constant use can't be good. And one fact is certain: it's fucked up face-to-face social life. No more lying or exaggerating. You’ll get checked. The addiction isn't incurable, but tough to treat. Try going cold-turkey for a day. Overuse is serious enough to catch the attention of people who want to help.

Hotels are popping up where the first thing you check in is your phone. Scientist, doctors, and researchers are warning us. What will happen if the technology collapses on a big scale (CNN ran a piece on the fragile underwater cables). With almost 6 billion users worldwide, there could be a collective nervous breakdown.

 *Teenage girls and boys average 60 messages a day.

Sources: internet, CBS News, Financial Times Weekend, observation (see LMPs 'GottaGETinTOUCH')

 Next week: Is Finland SOCIALIST?

Corrections: Helsinki blog. AMOS OZ should have been AMOS REX (Eki corrected one, but missed the other). 'Wife throwing' contest should have been 'wife-carrying' contest. Even though I bet, a lot of guys will be disappointed it was an error.

Re: Yang Gang blog: Sharon Pettus, sent me a MATH (Make America Think Harder) cap. Andrew Yang has enough donors and raised enough doe to take part in the third Democratic debate. Photo: Annie Lavigne


Note: Well, you are wrong. Cell phones do not cause cancer. Otherwise, exaggeration and fearmongering aside, you sort of have a point ;-.)


Monday, 19 August 2019


A composite image: Trump in France
'Trump, il arrive', a total stranger told me on the bus. The Seven Summiteers arrive in Biarritz on Friday. But it's Trump who sucks up the oxygen. He'll feel right at home swanning around the newly renovated late 19the C, Hotel du Palais (see LMPs 'BIARRITZ: surfers& chic), where the group will bunk down.  The center of Biarritz, including the Grande Plage, will be blocked off. Residents and people connected with the meeting must wear I.D. hangtags.  Tried to come up with a brilliant idea to score an accreditation. Drew a blank.

Instead, I went to Biarritz for five days to investigate. Talked to people who worked in hotels, restaurants, stores, bars. Not much reaction - just we'll wait and see. Biarritz and the Hotel du Palais have had famous guests since Queen Victoria made it the place to summer.  The hotel I stayed in was smack in the center. And will be a perfect hang-out for the press. But a four-day wifi wipe-out, like we had, would cause a riot. I asked the receptionist what they would do. Her solution: got to their other hotel not far away.

5 Towns in Pays Basque - Biarritz, surfers and chic (2013 edit)

President Macron wants to show off 'la Gloire de la France'. Three connected towns, Bayonne, Anglet, Biarritz (pop. Approx. 200,000), have been torn up for two years, to build roads for the new12 million euro electric tram-bus. Pedestrian spaces have been created and some streets eliminated. All three towns are gleaming, ready for the Big Show. Even if the world leaders don't accomplish one thing, they will have a cushy weekend in the Pays Basques and plenty of champagne to celebrate. Before they head  back home to real-life and a potential Force 5 economic hurricane. CHEERS! 

Sources: Sud-Ouest, personal experience 

Next week: Is Finland SOCIALIST? 


Note: Not much to add, yet. It will be interesting to see what kind of horrible hilarities ensue this time...


Tuesday, 2 July 2019

HELSINKI: cool confident casual & FUN

Helsinki, as seen from the air above Eki's home (Lauttasaari suburb).

What's not to love about HELSINKI. The center is small enough to be walkable. It's chockablock with museums, restaurants (my fave - Strindberg's, with a great view of Esplanaden - the 19C boulevard that is a perfect place for a summer picnic), book stores, home-grown designer boutiques, nightspots, first-rate, music - from high-end to boom boom, boom. All that and a knock-out location by the sea. Trams, buses, the metro, and trains criss-cross the city and go to outlying towns. It’s safe and almost everyone speaks English. A good reason for Putin and Trump to chose Helsinki for their one-day love-in. That meeting cost the Finnish government a million or more. But clueless foreigners no longer ask, what country is Finland in?  Savvy tourists discovered Helsinki a long time ago. Today hordes are rolling in.  Okay, it's not perfect - the prices might give you a shock.  When I told Eki I paid 12 euros for a  medium-size glass of wine, he said  I was hanging out in the wrong places. He'll know some 'in' spots that won’t bust the budget.

The Shark says she’s become a de facto tourist guide. Every time she’s in the center tourists ask her for directions. The trams and buses keep changing their routes and sometimes she’s stumped. But if they ask her what to see she tells them the new Helsinki City Library - OODI (ALA Architects) and AMOS REX museum (JKMM Architects), the city’s two Must-Visit places. Both have got raves from the locals and internationally. OODI is the city's 'living room'. A space where you can make yourself at home:  choose a book, read a newspaper, create music, make something on a 3D printer, eat, drink, see an archive movie. And I think take a sauna. AMOS REX, is underground in the 1930s art deco Lasi Palatsi (renovated to mint-condition). It was an instant smash hit. The light shines down into the exposition spaces through giant circular skylights. Its first show was Japanese Anime.  Psychedelic art covered the walls, the floors, and the ceilings. It made some viewers dizzy. But they stood in long lines to get vertigo.

The country is known for inventing crazy, off-beat stuff:  the air guitar and wife-throwing contests were born here. But its architecture is more famous. Helsinki is full of designer buildings (see LMP’s 10 Finnish Architects), in three styles: Empire (early 19th C ), National Romantic (late 19th C – early 20th C), Modern (mid-20th C). Architects come from around the world. ALVAR AALTO  had a dream that one day Mannerheimintie would become a cultural avenue. I wish he were around today. Starting about a mile north of the center is the opera house. Heading  South, Finlandia Hall (Alvar Aalto), the National Museum, the City Museum, the new concert hall, Kiasma (modern art museum),  OODI, Amos Oz. And not far away, Atheneum, HAM, the  Design and Architecture museums. A rich dish for any city, but Helsinki is a relatively small city with a pop. of approx. 550,000.

I FORGOT! The COVERED MARKETS:  HAKANIEMI and KAUPPATORI - salmon soup, a glass of cold white wine on a jam-packed Saturday morning, are the best sites of  ALL.  You could make a salmon soup tour of the city. Almost every place that serves food has its own version. Ask the shark for directions.

Sources: the Shark, Eki, personal experience

Littlemargie blog is on vacation in July

August:  Are you masturbating your  CELLPHONE: the CURE

PS: ANDREW YANG, the US presidential candidate we wrote about last week got slammed in the first Democratic debate - he came in dead last. But he has enough donors (over 135,000) and enough money to get a slot in the next round. The Yang Gang hopes he comes out slugging, otherwise he’s toast.


Note: The main tourist attractions are pretty well covered here. But nevertheless, i will add to the selection.

Especially for families with kids, LINNANMĂ„KI amusement park and KORKEASAARI zoo could be worth a visit. Oh, as well as the SUOMENLINNA sea fortress, a beautiful place where one can easily spend the whole day strolling the islands, visiting the ancient fortress walls, cafes and restaurants. The ferry leaves from the Market Square (KAUPPATORI). As Helsinki is often called the white daughter of the Baltic sea, seeing it from a boat is a nice bonus to a trip. In addition to the ferries to Suomenlinna and other visit-worthy islands, there are also round-trip sight-seeing boats that leave from the Market Square.

As far as prices go, everything is expensive in the city downtown, especially in the tourist areas. But just walk a few hundred meters to pretty much any direction, and you will find places with much more sensible pricing. For those who feel adventurous, the public transport is pretty excellent, and you can travel a rather large area in Helsinki and Espoo with the same AB region ticket, which is valid in buses, trams and the subway (metro). More than half of the households in Helsinki get by without a car, mine included.

PS: By the way, all of the above applies to Helsinki in the summer. It's lovely. The light nights are wonderful - even though we do not get midnight sun here, it's pretty close. But in the winter, Helsinki is a dark, cold, wet and miserable place without too many signs of life. Sure, the museums etc. are open, but a day out downtown still definitely isn't my idea of winter fun. Rather, we Finns tend to just hibernate over the dark season and wait for the light and warmth to return ;-)