Oct 312004

Embarking on a new track, I decided to periodically take a serious layman’s look into newspapers and magazines that I happen to read. Hohto’s already been tagged, albeit very very briefly.

Indeed, got my hands on Kauppalehti’s new cousin: Presso, to be published on saturdays. Looks very much like its main competitor, Taloussanomat – with articles on both personal as well as bigger issues. And a huge ad-supplement, for which there’s no equivalent.

The roster of writers sports Markus Ånäs who shot into fame as a prolific pseudo-gonzo journalist in Like Uutiset, from there to Johnny Kniga with some of the Like team, and now on to Talentum. His stories still read the same, but in a more serious environment the effect of artifically introduced jolliness is grating at times.

The lead article, an interview of the official financial scaremongers Sailas and Virtanen is well-done and long enough at three full pages.

Most of the articles could be taken directly from Taloussanomat (or Talentum’s old Saldo), there’s very little to differentiate this newspaper from its main competitor. But it’s early in the game, this is by no means bad for a debut, and the offer for two month’s issues for 5 euros sounds like a decent deal.

EDIT 6.8.2008: Presso is gone, and so is the link.

Oct 302004

GTA: San Andreas, after half an evening’s worth of playing. Around ten missions, probably a hundred more to go…

Random observations, in no particular order: Soundtrack is indeed not as good as in Vice City (but does feature some excellent songs – and a lot of talk radio). Aiming’s been changed from Vice City (targeting can be manualized). The protagonist starts off pathetically scrawny, and you need to visit the gym to build the guy up. Missions seem varied, the first ~ten have included drive-bys, burglary, bike chases, low-rider rhythm action and a lot of swearing in the cutscenes. A very good addition is the ability to skip needless driving in repeated missions (you just teleport to the actual scene of the crime if you decide not to drive there). The map of the game is humongous, only one city (virtual L.A.) is open at the beginning, with two more (San Francisco and Las Vegas) to follow. And it’s not just all cities, there’s a lot of beautiful vistas to see in the surrounding countryside.

A really surprising discovery is good ol’ Axl Rose as one of the DJs in the game. He really ought to concentrate on finishing the fifth Gunners’ album Chinese Democracy instead, it’s been years in the making now.

Oct 302004

Helsinki Book Fair in Pasila. Huge halls filled with finnish publishing houses, literature related organizations and second hand shops. Jolly good browse-o-rama for two hours.

Bought quite a bit of stuff, as a lot of it had reasonable price reductions:

  • the new science book by Esko Valtaoja (missed the
    dialogue-with-a-bishop one.)
  • Peter Englund’s Pultava (of which a few friends have raved about for
    more than a year.)
  • new Valerian album.
  • Tuomas Vimma’s Helsinki 12.
  • Special edition of Mauri Kunnas’ first book (book on gnomes).
  • Translation of Kerouac’s Big Sur.
  • Some really cheap Noam Chomsky book.
  • 20th anniversary issue of Ruumiin Kulttuuri (the magazine for
    finnish mystery fans.)
  • Hugo Pratt’s Etiopialainen Romanssi (Corto Maltese album).

Didn’t see some things I expected, like a softback of Ilkka Remes’ Piraatit or the translation of Schott’s Food & Drink Miscellany. Ought to appear before christmas at least.

Well, turns out that I fell for a duplicate the very first time – already had a copy of the Pratt’s album. Time to catalogue the library, this was acutely embarrassing.

The Valerian album had some inkless scribbles in its back cover. Shame on Jalava for flogging damaged goods, and double shame on me for failing to note the fact. The album itself is good, though the art seems to be lacklustre and blatantly missing details when compared with the earlier books, and the album is just the first part of a longer story. The older Valerian albums had some extreme prices in the second hand stands – the hardcover albums from eighties (Heroes of the Equinox and Ambassador of the Shades) were priced at 90 euros, and the still-not-yet-reprinted Alflolol was going for 80 in a very worn condition. Whoah, the prices sure have surged – I got the hardcovers for about an euro apiece in the annual publishers’ booksale a decade or so ago and a french edition of the Alflolol album this spring in Paris for ten euros.

Oct 292004

GTA: San Andreas. One of the definite AAA-games of the year. And the first to be delivered by the respective publisher in a very short timespan (Halo 2 for Xbox is next, quickly followed by Half-Life 2 for PC, with Gamecube’s Metroid Prime: Echoes the last release).

The main themes of the series have not been altered since the masterful Vice City. Rags to riches, with an inconsiderate amount of violence, felonies and corruption during.

Immediate observations:

  • Protagonist is black.
  • You can ride BMX-bikes (and have to, in the first two missions.)
  • It’s a while before you lay your hands on a gun.
  • Soundtrack is good – though loses out to the Vice City one due to pure personal preferences (too much hiphop/rap for my dignified taste.)

There seemed to be quite a shortage of the game downtown – Fredu let me in on the secret that Free Record Shop had an infinite supply (as well as a slightly higher price).

Oct 262004

With a considerable lack of hoopla and fanfare Apple opened iTunes music store for finnish customers.

Registered. Bought a couple of songs. A bit underwhelmed nonetheless, as a lot of genres are missing or misfiled (what exactly makes Sarah McLachlan “alternative”).

But the shop works (apart from occasional delays), the price is not bad (99 cents for a song, 10 euros for an album), so there’s probably a bright future ahead for the enterprise.

Oct 252004

Added a site-specific icon to the pages.

Just a greenish-blue doodle, nothing fancy.

Do not attempt to dissect with clever zooming, or by playing it backwards. THERE IS NO SECRET MESSAGE.

Oct 252004

Been listening to the two classic albums I bought on saturday: Peace sells… but who’s buying and So far, so good… so what!

Especially the latter has benefited from getting fully and truly remastered – the uneven and flu-ridden soundscape has now been improved to crispy perfection.

And the former still stands proud as one of the highest points of speed metal. Killer riff upon killer riff, songs that do not attempt to bore the audience to tears rather than just getting to the point fast, and with quite a bit of distortion. A classic album that compares with the best by Metallica.

And speaking of whom, could we finally get a decent reproduction of their mightily underbassed And Justice for All album. Please.

Oct 242004

Back in business of collecting all Garbage songs (if not all singles) on CD after a brief pause.

ebay proves to be very useful, even though the first couple of singles (especially Vow) tend to be rarely seen there as well.

Well, better challenging as well, than just expensive.

Oct 232004

Four full lines of bowling produce an unexpected leg-ache. Decided to take it easy with biking today.

Did the requisite consumerism downtown:

  • Two Megadeth CDs (recent remixes.)
  • Debut issue of Worlds of Cthulhu.
  • All issues of Filth collected to a trade paperback.
  • A new hotsync cable for palm.
  • David Sacks’ book on the evolution of alphabet.

Especially the last one was quite an unplanned one.

Turns out that even Tapani Maskula likes Collateral. Usually he’s pretty reliable in smacking a whole single star on popular movies, but this one clearly tickled his fancy as well.

Oct 232004

Team-building day-trip to our southerly neighbor’s capital city.

In-n-out with Silja Line’s catamaran, which was a surprisingly smooth and quick experience.

First real sightseeing ever in the city – an organized hour-long trip to sights not seen previously, like the Catherine Park and Singing Stage (probably horribly misspelt both, but the show was in finnish).

Lunch at ku:l sal (again, spelling probably worthy of flames): pizza (ok), pool (I still suck), bowling (threw decently, but the machines were out of whack and scores were altered by the circumstances).

Scottish Club closed due to a private party.

Dinner at Peppersack restaurant. A traditional estonian/hanseatic place. Steak was large enough and well-peppered. Seems that all dishes had quite a bit of the spice.

Oct 212004

Ok, so a new chapter in the book of the underdog is written.

As a cap-carrying yankees fan, I probably ought to be pissed, but hey, an upset like this rare enough to be savored, no matter what team is at the receiving end.

Oct 212004

Saw a second great movie in a row. Michael Mann’s Collateral. Despite the rave reviews, the quality of the movie took me by surprise.

The story is good, entwining pure action with fightclubesque existential ponderings. But the real star of the show is cinematography. Never before has dry, yet murky L.A. night looked so good. The digital cameras pick up nuances of light, shadow and smog and proudly show it on screen. Camera loves the city much more than the characters, foucs tricks and shaky handheld camera are used to good effect.

The story is of encountering the dark side, redemption against insurmountable odds and chance providing the incentive to really change ones life.

Tom Cruise, for the very first time in the role of a villain, is convincing and at times achieves a level of coolness reserved for the actors chilled with liquid nitrogen. The shoot-out scene at the club alone proves that there’s more to mr. Cruise than his annoying smirk (which is fortunately kept in check during the whole movie). Jamie Fox, whom I hadn’t encountered since Stone’s Any Given Sunday puts in a good performance as the spooked cabbie. Good ol’ Bruce Mc Gill (famous for his role as Jack Dalton in MacGyver) and Irma Hall (from Ladykillers) are the only other actors that stand out.

It’s good. Modern noir, at its very best (although missing a real femme fatale, but the strong interplay between the starring duo overshadows that omission). Irresistible in beat, invincible in visual style, it compares to the best in genre and the best of the city – L.A. Confidential and To Live and Die in LA. Go see, it won’t disappoint.

Definitely worth getting on dvd as well, as the crisp visuals do require a revisit. And there’s an additional feature on the “City of the Night”, which probably deliversexactly what the name promises.

Oct 202004

While contemplating writing proper travel pages (pictures, stories and all), this shall serve as an useful reminder to do something about it:

Visited countries-map

Yes. Embarrassing white blobs exist, even close to home. Not to mention three whole continents utterly unvisited. Mere 21 countries down, a lot more to go.

And yeah, it’s an ancient meme indeed, but still worthwhile.

Oct 202004

The annual National Novel Writing Month is next month.

Despite this being an american thing, been entertaining a couple of ideas to try to formulate into full-fledged novels.

But it’ll have to wait – I expect work’ll stay way too busy to allow for such extracurricular activities. Sad, ain’t it. But I’m not sure that I do have the daily 1666 words to give…

Missed the annual interactive fiction competition once again as well.

Began Stephen King’s “On Writing”, an autobiography mixed with a healthy dose of advice for aspiring writers. It’s good text all right, and reads a lot better than most of his latest novels.

Oct 192004

Finished “Hetken Tyrannia” (Tyranny of the Moment) by Thomas Eriksen.

A thought-provoking book that describes the inconspicuous acceleration of everyday life and provides valid critique thereof.

It’s not a new topic, James Gleick covered the same ground with “Faster!”, but this one takes a very critical approach to the issues generated by the splintering of time and actual disappearance of true leisure. Unlike Juha Siltala’s new magnum opus on loss of worklife quality, this does not concentrate only on a single aspect of life, but approaches the incurred damages from multiple directions.

While some of the examples seem contrived, and even a bit dated – though in the era of the internet, what wouldn’t – it’s still an enjoyable book, its 250 pages easily read in a couple of evenings.

Oct 192004

Mozilla Foundation is planning a big campaign to celebrate the almost imminent release of Firefox 1.0.

As a happy firefox user since the early days, been considering actually putting good money into the ad…

Yet another great open source solution that runs circles around the commercial alternatives.

Oct 182004

Project “Getting Rid of Expiring Movie Tickets” commences. First victim, the much touted new Charlie Kaufman film.

Missed Adaptation in 2002, and haven’t even gotten around to acquiring it on dvd yet. Being John Malkovich probably scarred me for life – being the most unexpected story ever. Thus, this movie had big shoes to fill.

And it did deliver. In spades. The story is sentimental, yet futuristic, the optimal PhilipKDickian utter mindfuck-sense. Wiping memories that can be turned against the wiping itself is not something lightly attempted by any director with any sense of self-preservation.

Jim Carrey puts on a good performance (I’d say his best non- comedic one ever), Kate Winslet still looks like a combination of Madonna’s and Winona Ryder’s best parts. But it’s the folks in non-leading roles that make the movie. Elijah Wood (last seen as a heroic hobbit) as a nasty opportunist and Kirsten Dunst (MJ Watson) as a sycophantic nurse toss the haloes hoisted upon their heads in these rather unconventional and unexpected roles.

At times it’s a bit slow-moving for my taste, but at times the speed of ideas would have benefited from a little more legroom to play in.

A definite candidate for the movie of the year. Heartily recommended.

Oct 172004

Watched Almost Famous, yet another great movie I missed in the original box office period. It compares in quality to Donnie Darko of all the movies I’ve seen this year. In a word: it’s damn good.

It is indeed a great movie. Of an era of rock n’ roll slowly becoming corporate, but yet having a lot of buzz within. Of people unsure of themselves and especially of each other. Actors shine: Kate Hudson as the groupie queen, Philip Seymour Hoffmann as Lester Bangs – the journalistic mentor of the protagonist, Jason Lee as the conflicted vocalist of fictional band Stillwater, Frances McDormand as the overprotective mother.

Auteured by Cameron Crowe, thus there’s a lot of Led Zeppelin in the movie. The soundtrack is plain great, and the reputation of Elton John as a musician went up several notches. And the story seems very authentic, so claims of “pure fictionality” have to be taken with an industrial-sized grain of salt.

Watched the director’s cut, with several added scenes. But the original cut is bound to be good as well.

And yes. I consider this to be one of the finest rock-movies of all time. Probably only Spinal Tap stands above Almost Famous. Of the ones that I’ve a) seen and b) can remember right now. So, there’s bound to be more.

Oct 172004

“It’s Me” on Radio Suomi. Definitely unexpected (and took several bars to recognize). It’s the nationwide no-nonsense channel, and the song is by no means the biggest hit from an unpopular album (Last Temptation). Weird indeed. But ten points for courage to whoever picked it in a daytime slot?

Oct 162004

Only one slot left of the japanese swordsery-movie, at 22:45. Definitely not gonna do it tonight, hope it gets a second chance at Bio City or some other theatre than the mainstream ones, where it apparently does not belong.

Oct 162004

Almost every Rush record of mine refuses to be ripped by iTunes. A mysterious error at a specific memory address (same for all) occurs. Happens with multiple albums (Power Windows, Hemispheres, Farewell to Kings), and without regard to whether it’s a remastered version or not. And nope, have only a single version of each – ain’t THAT big a fan.

Even the best customer support service in the world, google, is silent on this problem. Only two hits, and in japanese only. Hence, I seem to be pretty alone with this predicament.

Bugger. Have to borrow additional copies of the offending albums and see whether this is a global issue or my cd-rack radiates some disc-corrupting influence.

Oct 142004

Indeed. Among many other things, been struggling with SNMP – what a cruel beast that is. There’s ample documentation available, but the guts of the protocol are ugly indeed.

Dropped by bi-annual Hullut Päivät and got away with minimal purchasing damage: newest issues of Image and Edge (which I’d bough anyway), Prince of Persia for PS2 (cheap-o), Nylon Beat’s farewell collection Comeback and Will Self’s “Great Apes” in finnish paper back-format. And have to go back for “Some Like It Hot” before the sale ends, had to check dvdcompare.net whether an ultimate edition thereof happens to exist.