May 312004

After a healthy bout of exploration a small group of foreigners finally locates the elusive Kandinsky expo. Turns out that it covers only first two decades of his career. But is still very, very good and includes plentiful geometric weirdness. Manage to forget to buy the catalog on the way out. No pix allowed, as expected.

Afterwards, time for the real sacher-torte in Cafe Central. Turns out to be as good as expected. Not too sweet, and with just enough apricot not to be fully chocolate-y in taste.

May 312004

Get-together in a restaurant pretty much on Danube with the folks that are still present.

End up getting yet another schnitzel, but this one is excellent. And big. Covers more than half of the plate. And comes without the “anchovy and lemon”-combo so thought to be part of the real thing back home.

More discussions on the location of next year’s event. Helsinki seems to be quite in vogue. We’ll see about that, shortly.

May 302004

First day of the alumni meeting done. Very, very pleasant.

Trivial route to hotel. Used CAT, which was probably the best airport-city method known to man (better than a limo, even – as there was vast amounts of legroom and no traffic). 9 euros gets you from the airport to center in non-stop fashion, works great – time for Helsinki to get something like this as well…

On to hotel. Who surprisingly have a room ready at noon. Joys of austrian efficiency do not cease for the whole trip.

Dinner at a traditional restaurant located in the vinyard-region of Vienna. Confusing trip there made easy by ubiquitous route listings and naming the stops in trams/buses.

Old friends and new faces. Of former two guys I haven’t laid eyes on this side of the turn of the millennium. Good food, where half of the stuff looks like it’s shcnitzel’s stepbrother or something. Even better discussion, apt to turn from topical to truly non-sequitur at the drop of a hat. Turns out that pigs in all other represented countries except Finland say “oink!”, the finnish equivalent “röh!” provokes sizable amounts of hilarity.

May 292004

Off to Vienna to the annual University of Utah European Alumni-meeting.

After less than three hours of sleep, I’m bound to uncharacteristically crash on the plane. Hope so, at least. Rather a plane than during layover in CPH.

May 292004

Saw Metallica on the olympic stadium in Helsinki.

Executive summary: marred by sub-optimal sound, and thoroughly fucked up queues but still good.

Indeed. Arrived in decent time – but had to line up for more than half an hour before getting inside the stadium. And that only due to cutting the line at just a fifth from its head. Only one gate for ground access, through which some 20 thousand people try to fit. Security was just a couple of pats (and turned into an amok-y run later, according to friends).

Missed both warm-up acts. Would’ve been interesting to see Slipknot, but that was not meant to be. Heard some of their songs while on the line, and the sound seemed awful.

So, finally make it to the stadium and turns out that the local GSM cells are horribly overloaded. No calls in or out and text messages also fail. So much for locating friends that took a different route in.

Ran into a couple, but both groups were headed into wrong directions. Decided to move over to the track, since the lawn was just packed. Ok visibility, had two screens – initially in sync, but later moving to show different output of cameras.

Set list was as follows:

(Ennio Morricone's Extacy of Gold as intro)
Harvester Of Sorrow
Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
For Whom The Bell Tolls
I Disappear
St. Anger
Sad But True
Creeping Death
Wherever I May Roam
Nothing Else Matters
Master of Puppets
Enter Sandman
Jump In The Fire
Seek And Destroy

All in all a decent selection of songs. Expected more (at least Some Kind of Monster) from the newest, and was especially surprised by the total lack of tracks from Load/Re-Load-era. One, Fuel and Sandman had pyro, which was kinda lost in the still-well-lit Helsinki night. One also had dialogue snippets from Full Metal Jacket in its intro (as well as the already familiar bits from Johnny Got His Gun playing in the video screen).

Missed a couple of mainstays: Last Caress, Am I Evil and Four Horsemen for starters. But you can only fit so many classics in two and a half hours.

All in all a decent gig. The band was in good mood – James uncharacteristically jolly in his raps, Lars and Kirk their usual selves. Robert Trujillo, the new bassist was adeptly described as a cross-breed between a weasel and a gorilla in Helsingin Sanomat. Even as a card-carrying Newsted-fan, I’ve got to admit that he was very very good in his subhumanesque interpretations of old classics.

According to a quick calculation this this was my seventh Metallica-concert:

  • Helsinki, 1988 (Damaged Justice).
  • London, 1990 (warming up Metal Church as “Vertigo”).
  • Helsinki, 1992 (Black album).
  • Helsinki, 1993 (Oulunkylä outdoors-show).
  • Helsinki, 1996 (Load).
  • Turku, 1999 (Garage Inc.).
  • Helsinki, 2004.

Looking forward to number 8. Let’s keep the interval shorter, too.

And no rain either.

May 282004

Surprise thunder/rain/hailstorm strikes during lunchbreak. Got soaked. Despite a brave sprint towards dry housing. This does not bode well for the concert. Umbrellas are forbidden and my raincoat’s kinda bulky. Let’s risk it, ain’t no dark clouds up there now.

May 272004

Finally bought Metallica’s “Binge ‘n’ Purge”. Two dvds, three cds full of early nineties live-goodness. No real booklet, content stuffed onto the dvds.

No time to go through the whole hog before the concert looming in tomorrow’s horizon.

May 232004

So. Michael Moore wins Palme d´Or for Fahrenheit 9/11 in Cannes, and there’s no distribution deal for it in the US. Hope Disney comes to its senses and realizes that profits from the movie will overwhelm any savings from tax breaks from brother Jeb.

May 222004

Clued in by Aaro, went to see Babslei, a weird russian folk-punk band at a free concert (part of the marketplace of possibilities – a showcase for NGOs).

Rain picked up during the concert, hung around for three or four songs and departed for a drier alternative after having had a decent peek at the band.

Finally bought Who’s Next. Also bought Muscle of Love on cd – have had it on vinyl since times immemorial, but collection must be completed in digital form… And the first “Rock against Bush” cd, how can you say no to otherwise unreleased songs by Offspring, Ministry and a score of others at just 12 euros. You can’t, basically.

May 222004

Saw the movie about the hardships encountered by Metallica while working on St. Anger.

As a movie it’s not a classic by any means, but as a piece of time from the band, it’s mandatory viewing for anyone who considers him/herself a fan. The band members are no actors, but their anguish and anger comes over without being forced.

Dave Mustaine puts in an angsty guest appearance, wounds from his dismissal from the band in ’83 are still festering. Even though Megadeth has sold more than 15 million albums, he’s still pissed at having missed the brightest limelights. Jason Newsted, whose departure triggers the trauma, seems a lot happier than the remaining trio – being able to do what he wants and not concentrate fully on a single band (to whose output he has a very limited effect). Voivod gets namechecked which increases the film’s street cred even further.

Only snippets of music during the movie itself, but in the end a very powerful segment has the band preparing to go on stage to the tunes of their standard intro: Ennio Morricone’s Extacy of Gold. Full songs during credits.

SPOILER: The album is finished, and it goes on to reach #1 in more than 30 countries.

May 202004

Watched the two episodes of 24 aired last week.

Or tried to. Turns out I had programmed a wrong channel for the first one, and the second one was delayed so that the last five minutes or so never went on tape.

A relevant episode guide provides the info on what happened, but still my new-found VCR-idiocy surprises me. Just goes to show that any programming, no matter whether software or entertainment equipment, should not occur before 9am…

May 192004

Saw Stephen Sommers’ monster-mixer.

And was pleased. Had semi-high hopes for the film, since enjoyed the no-holds-barred action of his Mummy-movies.

Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale, homages to old horror movies, Q-like occult weapons, pacy story all add to an enjoyable movie. It’s definitely not anything to make you think, or present tough moralistic dilemmas, just a normal turn-off-your-brain summer blockbuster.

May 182004

Browsed for Corto Maltese dvds (since couldn’t locate them in Paris).

The movie’s (based on Corto in Siberia) available, as is the tv-show (split into several parts). Unfortunately only the movie has english subtitles, the show doesn’t appear to sport any kind of subtitles, not even in french. And my oral understanding skills are not really up to par. Hence, buy the movie now and wait for a proper release of the show in the future.

May 162004

Bought no less than eleven comic albums in french. Some missing Tintin and Valerian albums as well as some (Technoperes) picked up at semi-random, some picked up because enjoyed them in Ruutu/Non-stop ages ago.

And as the language skill has definitely rusted out, this ought to be a good kickstart to re-learning at least to be able to read it. Even with a dictionary on the side.

And french do take their comics very seriously. Even outside dedicated shops, the comics departments in bookstores are huge, and selection very good – ordered by the series (and sometimes by artist as well).

CDG is not the only sucky airport. Got a depressed SMS from Aaro at Heathrow, where he was enjoying the fruits of british hospitality.

May 152004

Flight out at 7pm. Which is never good, since hotels kick you out around noon. And, this being a french one, was sure not to give me a break here. Even though they managed to displace a shirt for three days, no chance to keep the room till later. So, the luggage goes into a small unguarded room, and yours truly back into the city.

Walked around the Boulevard Haussmann area for a couple of hours, and browsed some shops. Bought a shirt. Had french sushi (single-packed nigiri and makis) at Lafayette’s, which was nice. My croissant-quota was rapidly overflowing anyway.

Went to CDG early. Bad idea. It’s one of those airports where everything (shops, cafes) happens before the security check, so the place is packed with people who’re not actually travelling anywhere adding to the already crowded environs. Crashed a table of an american couple in a pub and caught up on a couple of newspapers.

May 152004

Visited the luxury-shops area on Madeleine Square.

Exquisite grocery shops next to each other. Never seen so many varieties of mustard available. Nor jam.

Managed to find Absinthe despite the stern statement from Alcatel’s folks we asked about its availability “it iz competely banned, forbidden, to sell it”… An official-looking spoon accompanies the bottle.

May 142004

Yet more touristery.

Catacombs of Paris the most macabre place visited like ever. When the cemeteries of the city began to overflow in the 19th century, a lot (like millions) of bones were evacuated to tunnels below the city. Femurs form walls, behind which other bones are stored, skulls line on top, and are used for eerie sculptures in some walls. Pictures to come, here’s a link to Rusty’s gallery.

Visited even more dead people after escaping the musty air of the catacombs. Joel’d already seen Pere Lachaise, which is out of the ways from the left bank as well, so walked through nearest one on the way to Luxembourg Gardens. More crypts that I’d ever seen, but they’re not common in Finland anyway.

After the gardens (first real sunshine on the trip), walked to Sorbonne, and had a leisurely coffee at an outdoor cafe. Prices were on the outrageous side, as expected.

After a “brief” visit to an amazing comics store, time to see Notre Dame. Which is amazingly big. Experience slightly marred by it having an ongoing renovation inside, but still quite an experience. The rose window (humongous circular stained glass) lives up to its reputation.

Title refers to general feeling of gastronomic relief. After uncounted amount of walking it was finally time for lunch/dinner, and the spot was hit with an ostrich steak accompanied with a nifty selection of no less than six sauces and a generous portion of fries. Props to “Hippopotamus”, which seems to be some sorta semi-chain in Paris, saw a couple of the restaurants around.

Did some more sightseeing in the evening – Sacre Cour offers a great view over the city (and the smog), and Champs Elysees is nice to walk along. Visited Virgin and FNAC to look for some french dvds. No Kassovitz. No animated Corto Maltese. No pretty much anything I thought of. Which wasn’t very much. Ended up with just Renoir’s Le Grande Illusion (without any idea whether any of the extras have subtitles) and a couple of cds.

May 142004

Like in so many other cities as well, using the metro is a very convenient way to get around. The network is vast, and the stations close to each other. Maps are always useful, but travel is made even easier by a convenient palm application to help in the trip planning, as multiple transfers are the order of the day…

May 132004

Workshop adjourned. After three days worth of work done.

Exhausted, decide to go see Eiffel Tower at sundown with a couple of friends who’ve already been there (but mist obscured the uppermost level then). Arrive at a very good time – no queues to get in, but one forms immediately behind us.

Elevator is clunky, and to get to the top level you have to change cars. Worth it because of the view.

Post-tower, pizza-dinner in some obscure Latin Quarter restaurant is considerably brightened by a young kid sitting next to us managing to set his cloth napkin on fire. Was looking for a good clip over the ear by parents or the proprietor, but only stern words from the latter were the result.

Saw the Eiffel tower from a distance doing the strobo-light show (every full hour after 10 pm), and stupidly forgot that camera can capture moving image as well, so only still pictures from that available…

May 132004

Alcatel treated us to a guided tour of the Louvre.

A very abbreviated one (about an hour). Saw some of the biggest attractions: Venus de Milo, Mona Lisa (surprisigly small and yellowish), Raft of the Medusa (not small at all).

Apart from “don’t touch”, all the signs in the museum are in french only. Which provoked an interesting discussion with a randomly encountered Canadian girl. Having both been raised in a bi-lingual environment, it was interesting to see how the idea of reciprocative lingual fairness (eg. why ain’t Sweden bilingual as well) is not purely a finnish idea.

May 112004

First day at the Alcatel facility and we’re already amazed by the quality of food and service in the cafeteria.

By sodexho, who also provide the industrial glop in Nokia’s feeding establishments. But this is something completely different. Duck, with risotto and good sauce. All artistically arranged on a plate. With wine, salad, dessert and coffee to complete the meal.

And despite the amount of personnel needed to operate the restaurant the lines are by no means slow, and the food quality easily overwhelms the need to wait…