Nov 302004

Two weeks in a blur. Not too busy. Not too pissed off. Just distracted and bored out of my skull. Hence the lack of updates. However, here’s a kaleidoscope of memories from the unwritten period:

Saw Rammstein in Hjallis-arena. Was good. Kewl had scored good seats. Lots of pyro. There’s bound to be a setlist somewhere in the web. Proof is left as an exercise to the reader. And any pointers towards the kiddie-choir version of Engel played after the lights came on after the show are gleefully accepted.

Survived office christmas party. Missed most of the band. And the whole stand-up comic session. Former was said to have been not bad, and the latter truly excellent. Too bad. La Tour turned out not to
be an utter hellhole, but ain’t going to turn into a regular haunt either.

Missed Jonna at Tavastia mainly due to the above but also the fact that it seems to have been sold out.

Bought Paranoia XP, which finally turned up in Finland.

Probably had my first ever packet loss in eBay. Not too bad, the item was a whole three and a half quid worth, with about the same amount of postage. The seller has positive karma up the wazoo, so foul play is pretty much ruled out.

Ate decent, and very reasonably priced, tapas at Bar Celona on Mikonkatu. A return is guaranteed, and the buffet lunch seems to be an even better deal.

Watched Scarface on dvd, and was surprised how much more sense it makes without cuts. Or when you’re no longer 15 year old and have more of an attention span.

Got snowed on, and lately rained on, multiple times.

Noted that Aaro has
evolved (or devolved) into pix-blogging and that Allan is back in business.

Experienced joy over the dadaistic expressivity in lehti. This is better than real news.

AK-47 got hurt, which probably also hurts the hopes of gloriously begun season of Haagan Hakkapeliitat. Time to go PF-shopping for the while.

Saw no movies.

Played some more San Andreas. San Fierro is open, after a grievous battle with an oversteering sportscar in a twisting mountain trail.

Nov 162004

Half-life 2 is out. After an uncountable number of delays (but still before Nuke Dukem).

Held off from immediate purchase. Backlog is too long (still only at 15% in San Andreas), and the Collector’s Edition (available in december) is supposed to bring in a lot of additional content (like the original Half-Life game but recreated with the new engine).

Annual Interactive Fiction Competition is over today. Was too busy to try out even a single game. Sad, I know…

Nov 162004

Picking up from matkalla (mangled translation of the questions my own):

1. Whose records are the most numerous in your collcection
Alice Cooper. About 40. With duplicates (albums both on cd and vinyl). Metallica and Garbage are probably the two following.

2. Whose books are the most numerous on your bookshelf
Terry Pratchett. All Discworld books and a lot of others.

3. What kind of movies are the mainstay of your collection
No unifying theme. Cartoons feature big, as do the outputs of some directors: Stone, Linklater, Tarantino. Ought to get more Hitchcock. A lot more.

4. What kind of pictures are in majority in your photo album
No album for the last three-odd years after going digital. Landscapes, buildings, people, streetlights, animals.

5. Which paper products form the largest chunk of your recycling-pile
Helsingin Sanomat, easily.

Nov 162004

Visited Lehtovaara the first time. A classical finnish steak restaurant, where a corruption dinner was conveniently organized.

Did not choose the most famous dish, Coeur de Filet, but opted for snow grouse instead. Portion was on the small side (it’s not a big bird), but managed to snag a few potatoes and a chunk of beef when the waiter offered seconds from the huge Coeur-plate. Now I know what’s to be had, next time.

The dessert’s sea buckthorn (tyrni) jelly was subdued by too much sugar, but still elicited some comments on its sourness from the foreigners in the party. If they only knew what the real thing is like at its best…

Nov 142004

Second day of the summit got off to a less than auspicious start when the keys to the conference room were not available when the show was supposed to start. So, this year’s Akvariet’s Oscar (a recognitional prize for a prominent scandinavian hobbyist) was awarded in the lobby. Happily to a local recipient: Mikael Westerlund, a famous cichlidist from Helsinki. The rest of the day consisted of three presentations and an auction at the end. No new faces on stage, all speakers had already been seen the day before.

Sune Holm: Aquascaping with casting dealt with making exact copies of natural features instead of merely imitating it by carving styrofoam. By far the biggest chunk of the hour was devoted on a how-to session on making a silicon mold of a sheer rock face and using that to cast concrete backgrounds for aquariums. More advanced than the presentation on previous day, but interesting nonetheless.

Rainer Stawikowski: Rheophilic Fish from South America dealt with rapids-dwelling fish; mainly cichlids, but other groups were also discussed (loricariids most prominently). Tall tales from the tropics, accompanied with pictures on both the environment (waterfalls never cease to please) as well as fish. And a lot of new species were on display, most probably utterly unavailable in Finland, and needing special conditions (extremely powerful water circulation) to dissuade most aquarists. By this time, I’d already made up my mind to get back into fishkeeping, but not with a rapids-tank. Noted some interesting names of fish to google and get information the old fashioned way (books). The DATZ-special issue on loricariids (first bilingual issue ever) was on sale after the presentation along with a brand new book on cichlids – already had the first one, and didn’t have enough cash for the latter.

Christel Kasselman: Plants II concentrated on the conditions of some plant collection sites as well as the plants found therein. Some odd water-conditions (chilly water in tropics, alkaline jungle rivers) did not really perk up the presentation, and the slides had too many of macro-pictures of blooming flowers, that tend to be way more boring than full-body pictures of plants themselves. Anyway, there was a lot of data, and the pure german appearace of the society devoted to aquatic plants did not keep the interested audience members away.

Last part of the summit was an hour-long auction. Sune Holm’s worthy paludarium never got off to a start (beginning at 1000 euros), but every single plant donated by Tropica was sold. Bought three items – a small swordplant, as well as a coconut and a huge chunk of bogwood both covered by java fern and java moss. Time to put them in my parents’ aquarium until I get my own… Ought tro circulate a couple of shops next week to get a good idea of what’s available these days.

Saw Halo 2 at Timo’s place. Played a few of the early levels in co-op mode. The very first one is a traditional FPS-level that could be taken from a number of games, but the second level ups the ante with well-recreated urban warfare (like Black Hawk Down with 22nd century weapons).

Nov 132004

Spent the day in Kaapelitehdas, attending the annual nordic fishkeeping summit. First time in Finland as far as I can recall.

First visited the aquarium fair organized by the local aquatic society. A lot of tanks crammed into a single room, very little shop presence. Some very interesting inhabitants (mudskippers, rays, Tanganyikan shell cichlids), but also some very garishly decorated tanks and too many crayfish for my taste. First nanoreef that I’ve ever seen, at 22 liters it looks very tiny indeed.

The summit itself is held downstairs, and the room is pretty packed – the organizers were surprised at the turnout. Four presentations altogether, which make up for some six hours of sitting.

Sune Holm: Aquascaping was the most fascinating of the presentations. Tips and tricks on how to make a lifelike, yet lightweight, decoration from styrofoam. The creations are indeed spectacular, and sold for a pretty penny as well. But this was no sales pitch, it concentrated on providing aquarists with skills to reproduce nature. The hour went by quickly, accompanied by the best slideshow of the day and entertaining warstories by the author. The presentation was capped with a live example, a paludarium of a desert lake filled with exquisite detail and very little water for the killifish living within. Mr. Holm sold hardcopies of the presentation and I was lucky enough to purchase one. Will be put to good use some day. And I expect a full-fledged book as a followup soon…

Rainer Stawikowski: South American Cichlids was also a very good show. About neotropical cichlids, some common, some that I’d never even heard about. Concentrated on behavioral aspects, and some weird behaviors were indeed shown – such as eggs laid on a sunken tree leaf and subsequently moved around in the tank.

Christel Kasselman: On Plants I was not very interesting, as I’ve never found plants to be as important as fish. However, seemed very well-received by the more green-thumbed members of the audience. It was the only really Old Skool presentation, consisting of real framed slides and a projector as opposed to PowerPoint. Some neat images from around the world, but not enough to really hold interest.

Kenneth McKaye: Malawi Cichlids was the only presentation with moving images, and a very strong conservational message within. Indeed, the underwater videos on cichlid behavior were stunning – displays on dead fish mimicry, nest building and broodramming were the first that I’d ever laid eyes on. The presentation had a WWF-stamp on it, and the conservational spirit was powerful. Lake Malawi has seen some good management lately (no aliens introduced), even though it’s governed by three governments. The lake as a tourism center was played up as an evolutionary hotbed – after all, where the Galapagos Islands have 14 species of finches, Lake Malawi has hundreds of endemic cichlids all descended from a single stem species.

Day one finished with a trivia contest between finnish and swedish participants (three-person teams), and the home team was royally trounced by the visitors. Some of the questions were indeed trivia (which islands the five named Cryptocoryne species are from), and the presentation of the quiz was not exactly lightning-fast, but all in all it was an hour well-spent watching expert hobbyists talking the talk.

Nov 122004

So, the last of the Old Men of power politics is now gone.

And Arafat had indeed been on the center stage as long as I can remember.

No more left – leaders come and go, and very few remain in the big picture after they are democratically faded out. Which is probably good, but makes a lot of new faces annually.

And someone’s still righteously pissed at W’04.

Nov 112004

Bus drivers on strike. For the second time this fall.

Hasn’t led to much chaos, but the few remaining lines are crowded, and the trains as well.

Sympathy strikes are supposed to spread out in other cities (just the capital area now) tomorrow, probably leading to a speedy resolution. Or not, as both parties can be stubborn bastards.

Me, I’m just grateful I live in walking distance from work…

Nov 092004

Finished Tuomas Vimma’s debut novel: Helsinki 12.

It starts off as a hedonistic tale of a true opportunist working in advertising, and turns into a violent thriller towards the end.

It’s not a bad book. The protagonist is charming in a patrickbatemanesque misogynist labeldropper kind of sense, and the two female leads are as improbable on their own.

The book’s been criticized for many things… True, it’s violent, indifferent and portrays advertising in a not too flattering light. One of the main criticisms, however, that of language falls very short of the mark. Even though the slang is artificial, and even stilted at times, it’s still coherent – and as the whole story might be just strong delusions of a single character with a penchant for odd words, it really is not that bad. And it has got some absolutely glorious oneliners within, unfortunately they get fewer towards the end and eventually replaced with garden variety macho posturing.

Yes, it’s good, it’s worthwhile, and probably does not suit most people. But, to cop an attitude from the protagonist, those sad wankers are wrong and probably in need of a dose of either spanking or Bolivian marching powder.

Nov 092004

And the Real Thing, not the almost-namesake who’s been directing charlie’s angels movies…

Indeed, digitalbits has announced that Paramount shall be releasing the show on a rapid schedule. Time to check two things: whether the show itself is any good (time tend to gild memories) and whether Randy Edelman’s theme tune still reigns supreme (along with the those of original battlestar galactica and hill street blues).

Nov 082004

Matti’s tales from Brazil have intensified the attraction of the country. I too want to lie in a hammock under a languid sun, watching the wide river pass slowly by. Riverboating from Belem to Manaus does not sound a bad idea for a spare week or so.

Nov 072004

So nobody told the people of Lauttasaari that the day went by a week ago… A devil, several vampires and vampirellas were present in the audience in Piratti for a trio of bands.

Saw DammitJim‘s second gig, and decent fun was had by all. Despite severely crimped stage and omitted full soundcheck it was by no means lacking funk. The second band of the evening: Zero Sum Game played their attitude-metal with rampant energy and managed to push most of the audience further away from the stage. Not bad, but vocals were mixed far too low to be understood (or recognized). Missed the third band – self-preservation instinct kicked in early…

Nov 072004

Aki Riihilahti, probably the most blog-literate player in the premier league further hurt Arsenal’s already bad week yesterday evening.

Crystal Palace forced a 1-1 draw on his equalizer. Quite a shock for the boys from Highbury Lane – after 49 games without defeat the losses in points (if not entire games) are piling up.

Chelsea seems to be doing well, despite the still roiling Mutu-controversy. Arjan Robben’s now proven why he was bought: two gamewinners in a week are not common.

Nov 062004

Saw Takeshi Kitano’s Zatoichi, a samurai movie that drew rave reviews during the Helsinki International Film Festival.

And was somewhat disappointed, without really being able to state why. All the principal parts were there: lots of bloody battles with swishy katanas, vengeance across generations, tragic figures on both sides of the conflict. But the battles are short, almost comic occurrences with a single Remo-class fighter against a dozen of mooks that get maimed in various ways. And the digital blood effect is used with such abandon that Sam Peckinpah would have been proud. The ending is too drawn out (three iterations to find the real bad guy) and the samba before the subtitles was just too fusion for my tired brain.

The film probably needs an extra half-star for the disturbing flashbacks, if only the whole movie would’ve been of equal quality.

Nov 042004

Watched the two-part miniseries of Battlestar Galactica, the 2004 edition.

Not bad at all. Serious science fiction with a severely military look to it. The story is, after all, set on an aircraft carrier- equivalent ship in a state of war.

And it’s indeed a remake of the old seventies classic, not a continuation. With drastic changed. Starbuck a woman, Apollo’s name just a callsign for Commander Adama’s son, humanoid cylons and a severely dilapidated eponymous ship.

The series itself (this is just a two-part pilot) is already shown in UK. Ought to pull an episode or two to see whether the quality shown here is preserved in the actual series. Initial reports have been favorable. But there’s really no telling. Some people like Survivor and Idols…

And let’s hope the inevitable second season avoids flying motorbikes and meddling kids traipsing around the american heartland.

Nov 042004

Thought I’d be madder at the show of collective need for a goofy safety figure out there in the land of the free and home of the brave. Nah. They got the president they deserve. In a country where the biggest party is that of non-voters, it’s not surprising. I won’t go as low to blame the stupidity of voters the result as some people have done.

Let’s hope for a more useful four years. It could hardly be worse.

And anyway, it wouldn’t have been poetically just to have John Kerry try to reassemble a contry from the blizzard-strewn jigsaw that is the US now. Let Bush pick up the pieces, he threw them to the wind.

Otherwise, it’s been a busy and boring week.

Finished Filth, a comic book that pretty much defies description. Violent Lynchian / Dickian mind-twist-o-rama, well-drawn and independent of the these days so common intertextuality. Just a weird tale with bad people and an odder backstory. Not everybody will like it, some will be shocked, opposed and disgusted after five pages. But the story sure ain’t for them. And that’s good. In a wishy-washy world of permanent PG-ratings, it’s refreshing to stumble on such manic iconoclasm every once in a while.

Subscribed to Presso as threatened, it’ll have until january to prove its worth. If Talentum ever received the subscription over web, never got a confirming e-mail about it. Well, saturday morning’ll show.