Friday, 22 November 2019

OODI* we love you: Helsinki's LIBRARY 2.0

Oodi, Odi, Ode - Photo by Kuvio

Hitchcock's 'The 39 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 the 'shock of the new'. No Books**(on the 3rd floor). For kids, especially the 2nd floor, with its high tech 3D printers, power tools, music-making equipment, and more, it must be hog-heaven. 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 Grönholm, Antti Nousjoki, 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 he thought 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.

A part of the city's 2.3 million book collection changes every thee months. It's so popular they sometimes run out of stock. The second floor is where you make and do stuff. The main floor has the cinema, a concert hall (the night we were there they had a jam-packed rock concert), a cafe-restaurant and faces a plaza with a direct view of the Parliament. Commissioned by the city to celebrate 100 years of Finnish independence (06.12/1917 – 06/12/2017), you couldn't find a better symbol of freedom. Let's all drink to that. Kippis. Skol. Cheers.

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

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

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

Edit: Not much to add here - i have only been at Ode once, attending a lecture on drones and upcoming new regulations on flying them. They have a nice auditorium (actually, more than one, AFAIK), but one thing remains even with brand new facilities: the AV system never works. In this case, they had a hard time playing back videos with sound and full resolution. Perhaps it was just a fluke that can be attributed to the place being new, but still... it's funny how these things never just work. There's always some issues, even at best of places, it seems ;-)



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 ;-)


Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Who the hell is ANDREW YANG? And why a pal and I joined the YAN GANG?

The rebel with a cause.
Never heard of ANDREW YANG, one of the 23 (and counting)   Democratic candidates who want to run for President of the US.  An article in the Washington Post woke me up.  I watched Yang's interview on a FREAKONOMICS podcast. He was smart, down-to-earth funny. focused and had style, (which even Eki says is important when almost everything is visual).  He was different than the rest of the pack. I called a pal in the US and told her to check Yang out.  Sharon said, let's each send $50 to his campaign. We were in the game.

Instead of a big splash on TV and cable, Yang has used the net to spread his message. But his small net-savvy team gets big crowds to show up at his rallies across the US. His campaign has got enough donors and money to secure a slot in the Democratic party debates. The message:  AUTOMATION is chewing up working class and white collar jobs. He started VENTURE for AMERICA  Foundation to fund start-ups in once-booming cities (St. Louis, Youngstown, Detroit for ex.) that have gone down-hill because the old jobs are gone (remember typists, elevator operators, sales clerks, et al.  Robots deliver pizzas. They can make them too.

Yang solutions include a Freedom Dividend (universal basic income - Finland is already testing UBI in a two-year experiment).  He plans to slap a 10% value-added tax on BIG TECH COMPANIES to help foot the bill.  The Yang campaign has the feel and look of a smart, young start-up company. They've turned campaign funding into a  video-game.  Yang sends info and updates on how much they need to make the next leap. I'm hooked. And sent in a second 50 dollars. Sharon and I got YANG GANG 2020 tee shirts.  His cap’s logo is MATH – MAKE AMERICA THINK HARDER.  Yang says his chances of winning are 200 to 1. Hey, against steep odds, he got a certified to be in the DEM debate. And lucked out in the draw: Yang will appear with all, but one, of the TOP DOG,  June 27, NBC, MSNBC, 9:00 PM.  Watch YANG make his case.  My pal in the US and I'll be barking for him. ARF! ARF!

Sources: Washington Post, Sharon Pettus, the net, personal experience

Photo: Annie Lavigne

Next week: HELSINKI: cool, confident, casual & FUN

Note: I haven't really done my homework, so I only have very superficial observations on Yang. Listening to the podcast as I type. To me, he feels like a smart guy, who has interesting ideas and uses the presidential campaign to get publicity for those. He seems business and marketing oriented, which is not necessarily the makings of a good politician. Countries are not companies, and running society like a business is a deeply horrible idea.

He's right about automation though. The societies will change, a lot. But even though a huge number of jobs will disappear, it is not necessarily as bad as it sounds. The same has happened over and over in history. The blacksmiths, seamsters, brickmakers, bookbinders, candle makers and wheelwrights of yesteryear are all but completely gone. But there were no video editors in 1800's, no computer wizards, and no truck drivers or telemarketers either for that matter. The lesson is: the nature of work changes. We have no idea what will be the jobs of the 2050's, let alone 2100's. But there will still be jobs.

But perhaps not for everyone. And perhaps we're lucky enough to realize as a society that letting our day jobs define us is not necessarily wise in the long run. Perhaps many people will just do whatever they wish - the aspiring artist truckdrivers will be able to channel their inner Picasso every day.

I'm not a fan of rebranding things. Please just call UBI UBI, not "freedom dividend". That's just stupid, regardless of what the focus groups say. The Finnish UBI experiment is over now. It really wasn't that good a test - first of all, they only selected unemployed people on that, and the main parameter they were interested in was will UBI reduce or increase their chances to get work. It didn't do much of either, as unemployment is pretty rarely something caused by the unemployed themselves, it's something caused by an actual lack of decent jobs. The people on the experiment did report UBI being good for their wellbeing, stress levels etc., even though they probably would have gotten the same amount of money through social security system anyway - what UBI did for them, was essentially to remove some of the feelings of guilt associated with being on case-by-case judged welfare.

In general, I think UBI is probably a good idea, but the implementation has to be very carefully planned. Essentially, it should replace some forms of welfare, extend benefits to those who have low paying work to reduce barriers of getting a job - as such, it would not necessarily add to the social security costs *that* much. We need to be careful though to make sure UBI won't create a new class of ultra-low paying jobs, where the UBI is actually going to the pockets of the predatory businesses due to lower salary costs. It's complicated.

I'm also not a fan of flat rate taxes like VAT (Here in Finland, it's 24% for most products), they actually tend to hit the poor disproportionately. The wealthy will not spend nearly as high a percentage of their money on this kind of goods. The wealthy won't be buying that many more phones, coffee cups or plastic buckets when they get the next extra million. I prefer progressive taxation. And that's what the Finnish proponents of UBI are suggesting - the extra costs of UBI would be collected by strengthening the tax progression slightly so that the poor would get a bit more money, the middle class would stay as is overall, and the rich would pay a little more.

Okay, apparently i had more to say on this than i thought i would. Time to stop.



Thursday, 13 June 2019


Anybody seen Nikolai?

Two videos went viral last week. Both were crudely altered to make NANCY PELOSI, Trump's new worst enemy look (1) drunk, (2) disoriented.  After the videos were trashed as low-level fakes, Trump Trump tweeted the second to his 60+ million twitterites.  FACEBOOK refused to remove the faked videos saying, 'let users decide for themselves'.  Today Googles's logo 'Do No Evil'  sounds like a sinister joke. 

Info on the INTERNET: TRUE or FALSE?  Would you take a bet on which gets the most hits.  Eki says anyone with off-the-counter equipment can make videos. There's an army of crap-content providers, who use the black-magic of editing to create their own version of the truth. Even if countries like Finland and France teach their citizens how to tell the difference between FAKE and REAL, do people care,  if the message is what they want to hear.

Eki edits according to laws and copyrights. He will never let me get away with a BIG LIE. But I've learned, after watching him all these years, how he can change scenes and the message. There are tons of pros and amateurs making videos.  Crazy and outrageous seem to have the best chance of going viral. Misinformation can spread in seconds. Most IT users don't cross-check content. And providers (Google, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, etc.) don’t. can’t, or won’t,  always edit bogus information.  Is Orwell sending us a message from the grave: READ '1984'?

Sources: Washington Post, personal experience

Next week: Who the hell is ANDREW YANG? And why a pal and I joined the YANG Gang

Note: Okay, there's a lot i could say about this. In fact, i could go on for hours ;-)

First of all, i make my living creating fake videos - in other words, visual effects are bread and butter work for me. We run a green screen studio, and if you want to put the actor on a surfboard catching a big Hawaiian wave - and it is winter, in Finland - we can do that (and have). Space? Jungle? News studio? No problem. The thing is, all this cheating is acceptable, as the viewers know they are watching a work of fiction.

But the same techniques can be used for much more sinister purposes than selling candy bars. And they are, always have been. Staged scenes or outright tricks have been used to push the desired narrative for ages. Both in still images (retouching did not start with Photoshop, just ask Nikolai Yezhow, who used to stand next to Stalin in this blog entry's headline picture, before being retouched out of life and imagery).

What is completely new, is the ease at which these tricks can be done, also on live video, by anyone. And the fact that anyone can publish them to a worldwide audience - instantly.

Currently, one still needs skills to pull off more sophisticated effects than the Pelosi video Maggy writes about, but that is rapidly changing. Recent developments in artificial intelligence (A.I.) are very promising for someone like me who craves for every possible tool to pull off ever better visual effects wizardry, but also extremely frightening.

Essentially, soon anyone can make a video, where a convincing virtual version of any public figure says and does whatever the video maker wants. These techniques are still in their infancy, but the progress is extremely rapid, and the skill level to pull the effect off will decline from current "one needs to be a computer enthusiast" to "Maggy could do it on her iPhone" in just a few years.

There are multiple techniques involved, but perhaps the scariest so far is so-called "deep fakes". With this technique, all you need is a lot of video footage of the person you want to puppet (which is readily available for e.g. politicians), and the A.I. will learn how they look and act. You then make a recording of an actor (or yourself) doing and saying whatever you wish to make your puppet do. And the puppet faithfully repeats your moves and words. The quality is already frighteningly convincing and will get better.

Imagine a video like this of, say, a presidential candidate emerged just a day before the elections - there would be enough time for it to go viral and hit the front pages, not enough time to prove that it was in fact a fake. That would be a case where visual effects change the course of history.

And on the other hand, even if someone was caught red-handed by a camera they could always semi-plausibly claim that the video evidence was faked.



Monday, 20 May 2019


True. TRUMP is a wannabe dictator, but he's nailed the universally recognized style. Think: HITLER with his slicked-down hair and weird little moustache which CHARLIE CHAPLIN lampooned to a T in ‘The Great Dictator’’. Trump, with his peroxided floor-mop. orange tan, pig-eyes, big suits, extra long ties to cover his paunch, jacket always unbuttoned except when he met a real dictator, KIM JUNG UN.  Trump is a perfect METOO.

His fans crowd stadiums and auditoriums to hear his rambling rants.  He promises stuff that's never going to happen. Never mind. It's entertainment. For Trump to be out with his base is an escape from the White House prison where people are watching, listening and writing stuff down for the record.  His fan cheer when he gets down-and-dirty.  And we might have this bum for a second term.

Eki says  STORY trumps STYLE.  The Mueller Report is probably the best and most documented book written about Trump and his gang of mini-mobsters (full disclosure: I haven't read the report).  It’s chockablock with info taken 'under oath': for instance, White House aides and his first campaign manager ignored T's orders to get rid of the Special Council. His former Secretary of the Treasury swiped a letter off T's desk that would have ditched an important trade agreement. If he didn’t conspire with the Russians, he and his gang had a lot of contacts with them. And got useful information. He comes across as so half-assed you want to laugh - a fake president governing the US. One Washington Post article about the Mueller’s investigation ends with 'too stupid to conspire, too incompetent to obstruct, too dumb to govern'. FORREST GRUMP in the White House? Or a dictator-in-waiting?

Source: Washington Post

Next week: #DerangedDonald goes VIRAL

Note: Oh, don't even get me started ;-) Pretty soon after the elections, I made bets with Maggy that T will A) be out of the White House before the end of his first term and B) face criminal charges. The jury is still out (or, not YET out?), and we will see who wins. Meanwhile here in Finland, our own lite version of Trumpian administration got voted out, and it looks like we will have a Social Democratic Party -led government, with minister seats from the Green Party and the Left Alliance. To get a majority of parliament seats behind the new government they, unfortunately, had to include the last PM party, the centrists. Fingers crossed for successful negotiations, and for the less business-mad factors of the centrist party getting the seats in the new government. There's a lot of damage that needs to be undone.

PS: Maggy told me CNN had a piece about the Finnish schools teaching fake news awareness - found it. So, everyone, be like the Finnish kids - and remember to fact check your sources!!


Tuesday, 23 April 2019


TRUMP is brilliant at buzz words that stick.  Think: FAKE NEWS.  He made it famous. But FN has been around forever. And the movies have made fun of it. In the movie Too Hot to Handle (1934 Clark Gable, Myrna Loy) Gable plays a news photographer. His editor sends him to China to get a fighter plane in action and other boom-boom footage. When there isn't any Gable tries to stage a bombing. He uses a model airplane and a kid who is supposed to be in the attack. The kid won't cooperate and the toy plane fizzles out. Wag the Dog (1999  Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino) is a black comedy on the same subject.

But Trump is in a league of his own, with help from FOX NEWS (2,800,000  viewers – October 2018). FN is  T's propaganda machine. And some people say the network runs the White House.  A bunch of right-wing sites like BREITBART are also on board. They tout that that legitimate newspapers (i.e. the Washington Post, the New York Times)  are publishing Fake News. Mistakes happen, but fact-checkers and readers usually call them out.  On the net, it's a free-for-all.

Trump spouts fake info ad infinitum. His BASE couldn't care less. The Post has a staff of fact-checkers who check everything he says. In a little over two years, he's up to over 7,000 lies. Like a rock star. his fans eat it up. I just read in the Post that his lies are so transparent his lawyers use it as part of his defense (some of Trump's legal documents come with a disclaimer in case he's sued). At rallies, after he whips up the crowd, he points to the journalists and yells look at them, 'enemies of the people'. Like lions attacking Christians in the Roman Colosseum, trumpsters have attacked reporters. But hell, why be civilized when it's so much fun to punch someone.   Trump said he'll pay the legal fees. Bullshit.

Sources: Financial Times Weekend, the net

Next week: DICTATORS got STYLE

Note to EKI re FACEBOOK: you said that posting on FB was like chatting over a coffee table. But when you blah-blah in person it disappears into the...... Posting on FB (unless you're a diligent editor)  stays there. I read in FT that today by the time most young people are18 they will have  had 70,000 photos taken of them. A lot of the pics are posted on FB. This group grew up on social media, but they're choosing sites that are more private (WhatsApp, Instagram).   

Note: Not much to add to this. Well, perhaps the far-reaching damage of this "fake news culture" should be pointed out: the overall erosion of understanding expertise, the proliferation of Dunning-Kruger infested idiots who think they know better. This can be seen in the denial of science concerning climate change, evolution, vaccination etc. The players spewing disinformation are largely the same, Trump and the GOP included.


Sunday, 3 March 2019

FACEBOOK censors

Bookface. (From a Fortum safety video animation by NitroFX / Eki Halkka)
FACEBOOK  has a problem. With 2 billion users, billions of posts every day in more than 100 languages, its founder, Mark Zuckerberg has promised to censor HATE posts. The company has organized a group of staff members (lots of lawyers and engineers). Who meet every other Tuesday at the company's main headquarters to hash out rules. The New York Times decided to run a piece on the subject. Facebook gave the reporter a 1500 page rules guideline. 

But the company out-sources the dirty work. The first requirement for the censor job is to sign a non-disclosure agreement (many of the monitors come from random-phone-caller companies).  One censor agreed to talk to the New York Times anonymously. He said the work was nerve-wracking. There were so many rules and so little time to apply them. For instance, should 'jihad' automatically be cut from the text.  A spokeswoman for Facebook said the company would be happy with 99% accuracy.

Eki told me he was on Facebook. I think he said he liked it. Little margie has an intro page. After that we never posted anything. But I read that the company can track (and censor?) non-Facebook users. With approx. one-third of the planet posting on the site Facebook could be a positive force. But chances are it will stay mediocre with mindless blah-blah and billions of look-at-me pics. While Mark and his minions rake in the doe: 5 billion (profit) per quarter. Over to you EKI.

Source: New York Times, the net

Next week: FAKE NEWS ain’t NEW


Well, i do not think you have understood what Facebook is. It's just an extension of the real world, with all the good, the bad and the ugly.

The mindless blablah online is no different from the mindless blahblah of person to person discussions over a coffee table. And the ratio between blahblah and meaningful conversations is also pretty much the same in the real world and virtual. What i'm trying to say, is that in the end the social media is not much difference from actually meeting the people in real life. But the good side is, on Facebook you can coldly ignore the twats without hurting their feelings - and in the other hand, keep up with people you would otherwise have lost in time.


Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Have you seen RANDY RAINBOW?

When I asked Eki that question, he knew all about Randy. Including how the guy pulled off such slick music videos in his one-room studio apartment. When a friend in the US sent me the link to the Bret Kavanaugh parody, it was like a video-snort of cocaine. I binged out. My favorite: 'How do you solve a problem like KOREA', What blew my mind was the use of news video clips and new lyrics to popular music. Copyrights cost an arm and a leg. Who was backing this guy? A rich Democrat?  I wondered what company was behind it –  I thought the production values were so good.

But in an interview on National Public Radio and another on the BBC (Impact), Randy said he did everything himself.  And copyrights never came up. I called the Shark, who knows a lot about copyrights. She watched some of the videos and couldn't come up with an answer. The spliced interviews from news programs are hilarious. He impales his subjects (victims) with lines like, ‘Cut the shirt' when Betsy de Voss, Education Secretary knew zilch about public education.

The Trump administration is perfect for parody. It keeps giving him more stuff to make fun of. But where does he go from here? For starters, a personal appearance tour of 13 cities in the US and one in Canada. Stops include San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto and the belly-of-the-beast, Washington DC. I bet the DC tickets are sold out. Randy has pulled off an internet coup. He keeps coming up with new up-to-the-minute material. The last one I saw was The CELL BLOCK TANGO. Roger Stone and Trump must have loved it.

Source: the internet

Next week: The FACEBOOK censors


The question "how does he do it" is twofold. When it comes to music, it has been possible to make high-quality music in your bedroom for decades now. All it takes is a mic, a computer with appropriate software and a lot of talent. Which Randy clearly has plenty of.

As far as the videos are concerned, it's almost the same nowadays. Great cameras are very affordable, you can get a greenscreen backdrop for next to nothing, the same computer, and some software, and from there on... you guessed it, all you need is talent.

When we make our little music videos with Maggy, we're basically doing the same thing Randy does - of course, unlike our little films, he likely does this more or less as a full-time job, and each video may be a result of weeks of full-time work

As far as copyrights are concerned, as far as i remember, unlike here in Finland, parody works are an exception in the US copyright law, so Randy probably doesn't need to pay for the music he makes his own versions of.

We've done derivate versions of existing music too, but only using copyright free songs - old enough, or otherwise license free.


Tuesday, 29 January 2019

SEX with a ROBOT: get your kicks. Literally.

Creepy but true. You can order a sex partner online, with all your special likes and dislikes programmed electronically. Available at Abyss Creations in Los Angeles. The information in this blog was not found on some obscure porn site but in the Financial Times Weekend. When I went to the Abyss site I was surprised. No examples of their products, just a white page with info. There were two boxes: one for the zip code, another that had GO. I didn't put in my zip or GO. So have no idea what came next. (see below).

Edit: I do not know what page Maggy refers to, but the above is the official Abyss Creations web site, and it has plenty of pictures. NSFW.

The uncanny valley.

These grownup playthings aren't cheap. The starting price in the FT Weekend was $30,000.  And as the article made clear, there are problems. For instance, where do you put a robot when not in use? Or if emotions are programmed into them will it be a crime to abuse them, etc. Men out-number women clients. Sex toys have been around for eons. In 'Turned On', the author writes about a grieving widow in ancient Greece who had a statue made of her husband. There no illustration in the article, but to be in the book, the man must have had an erection.

When I was in L.A a friend took me to a giant porn store to look for a video he wanted ('Debbie Does Dallas'). There were several versions, he wanted the original. The place was depressing. The guy behind the cash register was a pimply-faced kid eating a chicken nugget. A bottom-of-the-barrel porn shop. Billy is an anthropologist/archeologist, he told me to think of it as research. But what I really want to know, after having sex with a ROBOT, do you ask the universal  question: 'Was it as good for you as it was for me?'

Sources: Financial Times Weekend, Sharon Pettus

Next week: Have you seen RANDY RAINBOW?

Edit: We tend to overestimate near future, but underestimate long term development. Think of how the bots will be in 2200, for example. Whoa. Sci-Fi here we come.



Monday, 14 January 2019

ELISA: my Finnish email server crapped out on me

After three weeks in limbo, I got my wi-fi operating. When I checked my ELISA emails nothing had come in. Not even 'junk'. I called ELISA tech and talked to a nice guy named Kari. He said someone would give me a call-back. It didn't happen. I called the next day and talked to a bunch of different people, including a woman from customer service who made an appointment for the call-back. I waited around for that call-back, but no luck. Finally, on the third day, I talked to Tommi, who promised he was on the job. I got a call from Sami, who sounded like he knew how to attack the problem.

Tech support cheat sheet, from

Sami said, at ELISA end everything was working with my emails. He was going to try to get into my machine by remote control. I would have to follow his instructions. Oy vey. I hate this kind of work. Sami was patient. I told him right off the bat I was like a chimp playing with a new toy. I just bang away on my MAC and hope for the best. Eki helps me too. After trying to do what Sami told me, I said my head hurt. But I had a digi-shrink who got my wi-fi working with a little gadget. I'd call him and make an appointment. And I clicked 'date' again to see if something happened. No luck.

The next morning I had a bight -stupid idea: scroll down. Eureka. When something doesn't work, Eki says there's always a way. I sent Tommi and Sami emails telling them what happened. By this time we had become like old pals. Got a message from Tommi. And Sami wrote how happy he and added, the technology doesn't change that much, but it's the people who made his job fun. 'We tech guys are doiks' too.' Well, from this 'doik' to all the nice, patient EISA techies I talked to: a BIG THANKS.

Suggestion to ELISA: improve your call-backs

Source: personal experience

Next week: SEX with a ROBT: get your kicks. Literally.

Note to Eki: Hey, I banged on my MAC for six years and it worked. And it worked. It's not just me.

Note: Mmm... how to put this in polite and simple terms... if "banging on a computer" consists only of using e-mail, writing text and surfing the internet, pretty much every computer will "just work".

It's us users that cause them not to, usually. Like in this case - your computer and Elisa's service worked, all the time. The dysfunctional part was the one behind the keyboard ;-)

PS: i cannot recommend XKCD highly enough, well, at least if you're even a little bit geeky. Here's more on the subject of tech support, from a more advanced user's perspective:



Friday, 4 January 2019

HELP! I'm a digi-addict

The Matrix (Wikimedia).
It happened on a Saturday night. Late. I tried to check my emails but the 'airport' had disappeared. I thought, maybe my MAC needs a break. But no connection on Sunday. Went to the APPLE store on Monday for a check-up. They said it needed a new part and sent it to the 'technical support'. That was the beginning of my meltdown. My landline worked so I was on the phone calling people all over the place. They all said the same thing: no problem'. Use your cell to get and send messages. And see the news and movies. Er. I had to tell them that since we made GottaGET inTOUCH my iPhone is not connected to the wi-fi. I put 100 dollars worth in it and mostly use it for an alarm clock. They laughed and hung up.

While waiting I panicked. To mitigate the anxiety, I cooked, shopped, had guests for drinks, went out, took up deep-breathing-mind-control, took meds to sleep, lost sleep, played scrabble, knitted, walked several times a day, lifted weights, rode my indoor-bike and menaced pals all over the place on my land'-line. I saw a shrink. Called Eki and wailed. He told to send the BLOG by regular post. And about a cable that might make my MAC usable, and said I should buy a new laptop. After ten days in the digital desert, I went to the APPLE store and bought a smaller MAC (light enough to travel). The nice guy who helped me gave me the cable connections gratis - he saw my shaky hands. Eki admitted he'd have the DT's too if his connections crapped out.

I read an article about people born after 1990. They've been thumbing cell phones and other digital devices since they were two, or younger. What happens if there's a freak wireless-connection-black-out. The MILLENIALS will have a collective nervous breakdown. 60 MINUTES (CBS) aired a segment on young digital uses and did MRI scans on their brains immediately after they used their cell phones. No surprise. Excessive use shows a change in the brain. Especially bad for young users, who are often welded to their phones. Cell phone users are legion. When a pal in the US asked ALEXA how many users there were in the world, she said, 'Hmm. I went online. All the sites said that there are more than 5 billion users. Almost the entire planet is wired and addicted. (just try not using your cell for a week). Sherry Turkle at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) say the real danger is not that AI will become more like humans, but that humans will become like AI. I'll buy that.

PS: I attached the cables and the airport doesn't show up. I know it works because Stephan tested it at the Apple store. Eki told me NOT to connect it. Tomorrow a digital pro is coming to help me. Thank god.

Sources: Sharon Pettus, Financial Times Weekend, person experience

Note: Mmm... how to put it in words? Maggy just isn't compatible with computers. I could continue on the subject "Macs just work", but i digress ;-)

Long story short, i confess, i definitely am a digi addict too.