Eagle and serpent

explorations and philosophy: in the world, of the world

Nah, I don’t think so…

When the old regime handed the power over to the new one (in America), some analysts anticipated European countries losing the ‘W-argument’ of shirking away from the unified Western coalition. That is, the old, trans-Atlantic way of doing things would re-appear and flourish.

Now that the Norwegian groupies have awarded a peace prize for intensifying violence in a futile attempt to influence future foreign (military, of course) policy, some effects can already be identified. Verily, Europe is following the lead, namely the spotless reputation of Mr. Obama. His presence and hype serve as a perfect pretext for avoiding uncomfortable agreements!

More from Klein here.

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When the ice cubes melt

Been gathering some steam for a while now… I think now it’s time to vent some of it!

It hardly comes as a surprise that Ultima Thule is perhaps not the most inspiring place to live. An interesting re-phrasing caught my eye this week, however. A British anthropologist (living in Oulu, uuh) depicted Finland being “a diluted Greenland”. What a neat, condensed way of putting it!

This is exactly how it is. Religiousness, alcoholism, traditional values, lack of critical thinking… Let’s just not start, the list is far too long and f*ed up to be completed here. I’d like to focus my attention to something else, namely the mass media.

I might be exaggerating, but I think it’s extremely hard to find information of the world in this place, in the local language. If I didn’t have UK and Middle East sources in my feeds, I would almost completely be at the mercy of mainstream media. And this is full of ‘news’ that are either foolish, irrelevant, or local to ridiculousness. Maybe we should start talking about ‘newslets’?

Then again, whose relevance? It may well be the case that laypeople just.don’t.care about South Waziristan military offensive, but when the extent reaches ignoring militaristic apartheid regimes defying UN reports, I think things are going a bit too far. To prove my point, I went to the 1st source of unbiased and objective journalism. As I’m writing this, the paper has the following topics under ‘news’ -> ‘foreign’ (not always the exact wording):

  1. Additional Finnish occupiers’ return from Afghanistan likely to be delayed
  2. Farmers burned tires in Paris
  3. French bees are distressed by the countryside

What? Is there really nothing more interesting happening in the world than bees and their ‘psychological’ symptoms?

I’m not a fan of imagined conspiracies, so it might just be due to ignorance, anti-intellectualism and lack of market. Which is, kind of, soothing, right?

War is peace

…for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples…

What the f*@#?!

Not that I ever had any belief in these committees steering public opinion. But admittedly, this was a surprise! It’s not even necessary to talk about deepening the conflict in Afghanistan, recent whining about the ‘tight schedule’ of closing Guantánamo, or the deadlock in Iraq. Nowadays even warmongers are crowned with ‘peace’ prizes!

Guess the old Norwegian owls had to give their share to the hype. From now on, their credibility is zero!

Pseudo-scientific comparative analysis

I think it’s time for one. Some ten days here in the land of sunshine, culinary excellence and friendly people give the needed backrest for some reflections of my time on the island.

Food: London is simply wonderful, even traditional British treats are excellent; one just has to know where to go. No need to elaborate here further, the interested ones should just research TimeOut or book a flight. Compared to London Helsinki is generally miserable, sometimes positively surprising in its exoticism, the peak being narrow, boring and very pricey.

Prices: Nominal prices are what they are, currency rates fluctuating, added to cultural and geographical differences of availability. If ‘expensive’ is perceived as “the cost of what you get”, London wins 6-0. By the river the scope varies from good and cheap to exquisite in both ways, by the sea one can choose between expensive mediocrities and very expensive haute stuff.

Alcohol: Both are pathologically infested with alcoholics and a culture of excessive consumption. The North leans more towards binging and glorification of non-controlled drunken idiocy, whereas the Brits sip all the time. After work, the streets in front of pubs are crowded at least four evenings a week, full of shouting and smoking office labour. Splendid. On the other hand, Helsinki is drunkard-littered ‘only’ two times a week (summertime is another matter), and has more brawling and aggressive behaviour (in London one has to seek a bit).

Housing: In this sense, Helsinki is a clear winner (except for the geo-location). At the price of a nice studio in Helsinki city centre, in London the same money buys you a garage with dust, mould and free street entertainment. Crumbling infra is a big turn-off, added to the almost inescapable need to commute (in similarly crumbling) mass transit establishment.

People: One thing I’ll definitely miss is the politeness and considerateness of the people around. Everyone is simply used to taking other people’s space and person into account, physically and verbally, which is definitely not the case in Ultima Thule. Maybe it’s due to the long history of people living together, don’t know. Nevertheless the archetypical, rude Finnish redneck with two modes of talking—complete silence and verbal abuse—is not appealing.

Hubris levels (ungrounded self-satisfaction added to ignorance about the exterior world) are pretty much the same in both countries. In the UK, however, they have far better reasons for that; hence it’s slightly less ridiculous.

Couple in the cabin

Lars von Trier’s newest is a disturbing one. Careful with the reviews though, discussions of Antichrist’s disturbance often become spoilers.

The flick has absolutely stunning cinematography. Slow motions and art-like colours are combined throughout the film with an eerie soundtrack. Depending on the viewer, it might also be viewed either as a feminist or a misogynistic film. Beauty/ugliness, inside/outside, bliss/pain, life/death, you name it. Lars likes to disturb. In a way, this play with contrasts is an old one.

One likable feature in von Trier’s story-telling is his habit of dropping hints along the journey. On the other hand, these traces, picked up and followed, can lead to an underlined use of symbolism. What he discusses nicely is man’s relationship with nature, fear, the forest around him and how it gazes him from within himself.

The cabin becomes the self.

Back on the island

After a month of wandering in the belt of good life (south of the Alps, north of the Atlas), it was time to return to the fog. It took some time and pain to re-adjust to the rain and cold.

+13 degrees, wind and rain just don’t do it for me anymore. Yes, many things are better here than in the south (infra etc. you know it). Sadly, the benefits hardly outweigh good food, nice people and excellent weather… Cold fingers no good.

There must be something in the notion that bad outdoors makes people concentrate on the indoors (and vice versa). No surprise that doing a PhD right next to a beach takes a very curious mind…

Mangiare

Had to leave Italy, otherwise they would’ve made me fat! In the Ligurian mountains even the waiters took no no for an answer. Seems they are insistent on every front…

After declining a dessert from the dinner menu and just opting for a coffee, the waiter came back in few minutes suggesting another, ‘very good local dessert’, which I, of course, could not turn down. It ended up being a plateful of these

Uuh…

Also easiness of the wine specs was surprising, which is rather uncommon in Europe. When I asked about the difference between normal and ‘superiore’ Rossese (local red), I got an extremely helpful answer. “You see-a, superiore is very good!

For you my friend

This is how it should be! Renting a vespa in Italy can turn out to be pretty much anything. But what comes without saying, it’s not boring!

The best thing to have is someone who knows what he’s doing, and knows the owner of the rental as well. Then you can get a discount and be quite sure that they don’t fool you. This is common knowledge, not surprising, and so on.

But the most important thing is the thing what this leads to. Unlike in cultures with high level of Weberian bureaucracy and low level of charisma (read: everything north of the Alps), here assholes don’t have a fun time! (Or you have to be the biggest asshole in the country in a loong time).

Being friendly pays off—which is very cool indeed!

The cowboy’s burden

First reflections after seeing Clint Eastwood’s newest—Gran Torino—were quite confused. The immediate reaction was that the film is Eastwood’s will—summation of the things he’s famous of, spiced up with some criticisms.

Initially, his main character seems like a rather good depiction of a ghettoised, white, racist veteran. After a while, though, this picture starts to show some signs of overemphasis—sometimes he’s just too much himself.

Apologetic and obvious to start with, the movie proceeds to its non-surprising end. The critical viewer is also tempted to see white man’s heroism as a form of neo-colonialism. It’s after all him that saves the aborigines—from themselves.

And yes—the winner gets a car.

Lever attitude

It’s such a long time since reading a blog moved something inside. And…oh, yes.

Would it be cool to have an espresso bar in the middle of the town that would inhabit lever machines, skilled baristas and a flow of interested customers—only? Single 1, doppio 2 units of currency.

Fancy milk? F*ck off!