Feb 272006
 

Hello hello, mr/ms anonymous visitor from bluewin.ch, who surfed in on 27.2.2006 at 2:21:24, without any sensible referral information, and viewed the main page of the blog.

As the 5000th visitor to this blog you are now entitled to a drink of your choice. To be meted out at an appropriate place, at a jointly agreed upon moment. Yes, this being an occasion of such magnitude, even a Long Island Ice Tea is a legal choice.

(Yes yes, the number’s probably off by an elephant-sized margin. The blog was without any statistics for ages, and the sitemeter-service seems to have endured a few outages since then. But as we all know, according to a heroic american statesman “facts are stupid things”, so let’s not get too hung up on the shortcomings on the details of calculation.)

Feb 272006
 

So that’s an even billion tunes sold from iTunes.

Have bought three songs. Basically to try out the system more than anything. And ended up buying Green Day’s American Idiot-album based on the strength of the title track.

Of course, as comrade überkuul notes a billion songs sold legally is a drop in the ocean against the fact that a similar amount of songs is transmitted in p2p-networks in a month. Or even less. Nobody’s counting.

Feb 262006
 

Finns lost the olympic final in ice hockey to Sweden 3-2.

Putting thus an end to the magnificent Turin’06-campaign at the last possible moment.

Four weeks ago I would have doubted the sanity of anyone stating that I’d be disappointed because we won silver. Two weeks ago, after a series injuries depleted the team I would have considered such a claim ludicrous.

Yet here I am. Pissed off because we “only” got the silver, and not gold.

Realistically, however, this was a great accomplishment. On par with the World Cup success some year and a half ago, and exceeding the world championship victory in ’95.

And the game was indeed of a classic quality. Aggressive offense, tight defense, with good shots in both ends. Neither team could afford to play it safe, and the game remained even into the very end. So this time there’s no complaints of the finns choking or playing sub-optimally. Nope, the team fell with its skates on. The difference between the opponents was not large, both had several additional scoring chances, so the score might have been wildly different.

The campaign was a testament to the New World Order in ice hockey. It’s speed and control that win games, not size and strength. Apart from Slovakia (and naturally, Sweden) we beat all the world’s hockey powerhouses. And shut out a few of them. Clearly that is something to be proud of, the medal’s shine will get brighter in coming days.

The all-star choices were made before the final, and finns dominated the selection there as well: Goalie (Antero Niittymäki), Defense (Kimmo Timonen) and two members of the Offense (Teemu Selänne and Saku Koivu). In addition Antero Niittymäki was awarded the Most Valuable Player-award. He clearly was the cornerstone of the finnish team, and deserving of recognition.

The big homecoming party for the team on Kauppatori dwindled down after the loss. And due to the airspace closure over Turin, the swedish team won’t make it to Stockholm tonight. And with players needed by their NHL teams almost immediately, such parties will have to be postponed until the Stanley Cup has been finished. And even then a lot of the players will be employed in Riga, for the annual world championships.

Feb 262006
 

Lion Mountain #5 by Harri Kallio

In addition to unexpectedly missing the fourth Harry Potter film today, just remembered that also failed to visit the Photo Finlandia expo in time. And thus missed Harri Kallio’s winning entry. And was forced to locate some of the images via google.

An entry made quite spectacular by the fact that the subjects, Dodo-birds, were extincted in the 17th century. Nope, the photographer didn’ resort to creative photoshoppery, but build life-size models of the birds and photographed them on site in Mauritius.

Feb 262006
 

Kalle Palander failed to match Tanja Poutiainen’s earlier silver medal.

By managing to miss a gate in men’s slalom. By a tiny margin, but large enough to count.

Skied until the end of the course no matter what and recorded a time good enough for silver. Unfortunately in vain, and got a 999 swiss franc fine for “failing to exit the course fast enough”.

Also caught bits and pieces of the bronze game in ice hockey, and the first and only glimpses on four man bobsledding. A sport that still quite mystifies. How exactly are the differences between the teams built up – late braking, or good initial speed? And is it a sled that the guys ride, or is it a bob? If not, where does the “Bob” bit come from? Is special agent Cooper aware of this suspicious connection?

Feb 252006
 

Been playing the oldish first part of the resurrected Prince of Persia-saga, Sands of Time. It was released to rave reviews but an initially lukewarm commercial success for christmas 2003, but has already seen the sales figures go up. High enough to warrant two sequels released a year apart.

And it’s turned out to be a good and enjoyable game indeed, right now I’m hovering around 70% of completion, and expect to finish soonish.

It’s sufficiently 3D to satisfy the need for eye candy, but most of the time it doesn’t fully operate in all dimensions. On the other hand, the scenery is all 3d, all the time, and some of the rooms are enough to cause nightmares for any acrophobics in the audience. Normal jumping and running activities are supplemented by a hefty selection of more acrobatic tricks such as swinging from poles, walking on vertical walls and indeed some more jumping and running.

It’s not all exploration, as the environs are teeming with enemies. Combats are, once again, rendered with a suitable set of acrobatics, and are thus quite flashy yet the protagonist remains in control of activity.

Time is an element not often used in games apart from task deadlines. However, in this game the eponymous Sands of Time give the Prince a small amount of control over the passage of time. It can be slowed down or even halted to assist surgical strikes in combat. And, more often, the time can be rewound after a miscued jump or other accident. The game itself is presented in past tense, with the prince as the narrator.

Savepoints are liberally distributed in the palace, and usually a big set piece, be it a fight, puzzle or a collection of death-defying stunts, is paired with a conveniently located means to preserve the state of the game.

Visually the game is faultless. It contains tons of images conveying a vast arabic palace that has suffered a devastating attack. Scenes are played through a day, so the environs are seen in both twilight and full daylight. Sonically the game succeeds as well, but earns a demerit for not including subtitles for the spoken dialogue. The actors are not the greatest, and I found myself actually missing huge chunks while playing.

As an easter egg (to be uncovered around the 33% completion mark) the game includes a remake of the very first, utterly two-dimensional Prince of Persia-game from 1989. It’s a well-rendered homage, and worth a try.

The sequel to Sands of Time, Warrior Within, saw a lot of changes, not all of them good. The story focused on combat as opposed to exploration, and all kinds of unnecessary bits of badassitude were stapled onto an already finished game: a puzzling inclusion of a nu-metal soundtrack, swearing, tattoos, thong-wearing villainesses. Bumped the sales figures a few notches, but were stylistically decried. I don’t think I’ll bother with the sequel – the backlog of unplayed games is long enough without B-class followups. And includes Beyond Good and Evil another Ubisoft game that was released to very little acclaim in 2003. And unlike Sands of Time, never got a second chance.

Feb 252006
 

Attempted to be rid of a soon-expiring movie ticket by watching the fourth installment of the Harry Potter saga.

But was denied, as the movie was sold out. Clearly there’s something odd going on, it’s been rolling for more than three months already. OK, it’s not the biggest screen in Helsinki, but still – I guess some other people have a similar plan to get rid of their “best before”-tickets.

This provided a golden opportunity to pay a visit to Keltainen Jäänsärkijä, probably the best record store in Helsinki. And didn’t get away empty-handed. Replaced my long-since-nicked Keeper of the Seven Keys (part 1) with a new two-disc copy, and purchased the (slightly weaker) second part as well. Also noted that it’s now been ten years since Sepultura split, and bought a cheap live album from the last tour. Saw them live once on the Arise-tour, and was quite impressed. Didn’t really like their subsequent albums much, so there’s probably quite a lot of songs that I won’t be able to even recognize.

Feb 252006
 

So the russians were taken care of. In style. With the fifth shutout of the tournament.

Keys of the game: speed, control and possession. The russian defenders were thrown off by the first (and an off-key performance by Nabokov in the goal), and their offense by the latter two. Their game deteriorated to solo performances when the finnish defense stifled their orchestrated attacks. The game was settled far before the twin 2+2 penalties meted out made sure the russians never had a chance to recover in the final period.

However, despite the tight defense, once again it was goalkeeping that made the game. I don’t know what Antero Niittymäki has been taking before between the games and individual periods, but clearly it has shaved all excitement from his nerves. No-one seriously misses the duo of hurt goalies – neither Lehtonen nor Kiprusoff could have exceeded the performance put in by Niittymäki. And after this show, the #1 goalie spot in Flyers should be much closer to reach.

Off to face Sweden, the dear rivals, on sunday afternoon. Sweden whipped the Czech republic 7-3, so they are in well-primed state as well.

(And nope, #10 is not turning into a hockey blog. Once things subside after the games, only an occasional mention of NHL will be provided. In case you need more regular medication, turn to the real thing instead.

EDIT 26.8.2008: the hockeyblog is long gone.

Feb 242006
 

The last episode of the fourth season of the best cop show at the moment, the Shield, aired this week on canal+.

And quite a season it was. Picking up a couple of months after the dissolution of the Strike Team in the end of the previous season, a lot has happened to the protagonists. And a lot happens during this season. Boring moments are rare, there’s easily enough material for a much longer season – so the pace is indeed rapid.

Glenn Close is brought in as the new captain of the Farmington precinct. And her acting gets quite a high position on the “cold women”-scale. The characters from previous seasons are as conflicted as ever, and interesting B-plots surface in their relationships.

And this time there’s a definite Big Bad, who seems to be behind all that is ill in the neighborhood. However, with multiple teams on the streets, fortunately not everything centers on a single campaign. Boring moments are rare, there’s easily enough material for a much longer season – so the pace is indeed rapid.

The previous favorite show, Hill Street Blues, has finally ended up on dvd-format. During a re-run about half a decade back it was obvious that time had been kind to the show, so picking up at least the first season is a necessity.

Feb 242006
 

The finnish curling dream came to an end in the final. Canada, who have been previously denied gold in previous games, whipped the finns loud and painful. With a six-point end just after the break, the match coasted until concession was available in the eighth end.

Not a bad result by any means, and better than anybody expected.

Seems that the curling rinks are now booked full until may. And poor departmental secretaries have to hunt for second-class options when they are repeatedly turned down for recreational events.

In other news Tanja Poutiainen brought home the first olympic medal ever in alpine skiing. And with the ice hockey semi-final game against Russia in the evening this is turning into quite an interesting sports day.

Feb 242006
 

Had a semi-spontaneous day off.

No grandiose plans. No attempts to do anything extraordinarily nifty. No great weather enticing for a lengthy walk on the ice.

Nope. Just a generally lazy friday, spent without too much planning in advance.

Bought a Tucano second skin neopren-case for gromit the iBook.

Noted that there’s a new player in town for Co2-fertilizing the aquarium. Hydor’s systems are neatly priced between the cheap fermentation-based and the scarily technological Sera-systems. Bought an extra set of fermenters and will look into replacing them soon, not right now. Especially when the company website’s lack of infromation indicates that the product family is brand new.

Had the best pizza in absolute ages. La Famiglia Cellar is clearly a place to return to. Thin crust, lavish layer of toppings, and not at all drowned in molten cheese. Time to go for seconds soon, the list had quite a bit of variety on offer. And unlike the upstairs establishment, there was absolutely no queues. Nice.

Feb 222006
 

Television was on most of the evening in Casa Lavonardo. Tuned to sports. Not watched the whole time, just during exciting moments.

First up was the olympic quarterfinal icehockey game between Finland and USA. Finns continue on undefeated, but they played far more unsteady than in previous games. Kept afloat again by the goalie, and occasionally struck down by unorthodox refereeing. But the latter cannot really explain the sudden slowing down of the finnish game, the mojo must be re-acquired for the semifinal game on friday. Derian Hatcher’s nasty open-ice slash on Selänne (rewarded by a 2+2 minute penalty) reminded me why I don’t like the guy – his previous cheap shot on Jeremy Roenick back in the day, quite well illustrated the lows he’s willing to go. Should fit in nicely Broad Street Bullies of Philadelphia.

Next, a way slower sport. Curling semi-final between Finland and UK. And the finns won, with a masterful throw with the last stone in the very last “end” of the match by the team captain who’s turning into quite a hero. Final game on friday. Against Canada who massacred the americans in the other game.

And to cap it off, a UEFA champions league game between Chelsea and Barcelona. Only saw the second half, and let’s just say that it wasn’t truly great football by any means. Some occasional shows of personal brilliance by the players couldn’t hide the fact that the Stamford Bridge pitch potato field was in horrible shape. More grayish-brown and uneven than precision-cut grass, this meant that a quick passing game was doomed. Too bad no finnish channel will broadcast the second leg of the game in two weeks – nelonen stopped showing tuesday games a year ago.

EDIT 26.8.2008: Warning: contains expired links.

Feb 222006
 

Watched Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle, a comedy with a serious set of homages to older films.

On a surface level this is nothing more than violent slapstick with a two-bit story. On a deeper level it there really isn’t much more to offer.

It’s not as over the top as Chow’s previous film, Shaolin Soccer, but does not attempt to be realistic on any level. Then again, this is much more a wuxia film than a gritty tale that Bruce Lee made.

It’s not that bad, but it’s just so predictable. Not as to the effects and specifics in regularly scheduled fights, but the story. Which is banal almost beyond belief.

It’s the homages to other films that raise the film above the norm of a C-class Jackie Chan comedy. Somehow influences such as Kubrick’s Shining, the Matrix films, El Mariachi or even Spiderman do not feel strained. And I’m sure that there are tons of unspotted references to classic Kung Fu films. And a further bonus is due from the english subtitles on the dvd, that often stray from the dialogue completely.

Decent entertainment, just don’t expect too much.

Feb 212006
 

Saw George Clooney’s sophomore film, Good Night, and Good Luck. It’s a timely film about a lone reporter’s struggle against the oppressing forces of McCarthyism.

The movies is dated by two things. It’s all in black and white, enabling the use of authentic inserts from the fifties. And people smoke. A lot. Almost all the time.

The plot is rather simple, and the addition of a brief subplot does not carry the story forwards. However, in the era where movies start hitting their stride on their third hour, it’s pleasant to see a movie that tells the tale in ninety minutes.

Jason Strathairn paints a picture of an unyielding opponent of censorship as Edward Murrow. George Clooney has a much bigger role than a mere cameo, and Robert Downey Jr. is his trusty self as one of Murrow’s colleagues. Female roles in the movie are confined to secretaries, as well as outtakes from a studio where a jazz singer provides the music of the movie.

Recommended. And an extra star on top for a couple of rousing speeches by the lead.

Haven’t yet seen Clooney’s debut film, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, but probably ought.

And the title? It’s Murrow’s catchphrase from his days as a war reporter in England during the Blitz that he retained throughout his career.

Finnkino shows the movie in Forum 1-theatre only. Which, I guess, is a nice place in historical sense with murals on the walls and the place in its original shape. However, comfort-wise it’s quite something else, and I’d sure hate to watch extended epics there.

Feb 212006
 

As Janne reports, a quiet marketing blitz (or controlled leakage) of material from the long-awaited Guns n’ Roses album, Chinese Democracy, has begun.

Official date for the album is not out, but statements from old bandmates and hopeful promoters indicate a definite push towards it finally being published this spring.

As chronicled by an unofficial finnish Gunners-page, it’s been a long and strange trip indeed.

Me, I’ll believe when the second single off the album hits the streets (the first, My God, petered out in ’99 already). And will play the upcoming songs off an old bootled. And hope that Madagascar and Silkworms make it to the album, close to the shape they were in Rio in 2001.

And hey, the lineup in Novarock does not look bad at all. But how will the individually Delaware-sized egos of Axl and Lars Ulrich fit into a single arena… On the other hand, the program lists Alice in Chains among the bands, which is no mean feat considering that Layne Staley died, and the band fell apart.

EDIT 26.8.2008: Not all the links work.

Feb 212006
 

Bah. A personal olympic medal eluded Janne Ahonen again. Austrians and norwegians were just simply too strong. The Unsmiling One did not blame the conditions, which were simply rather sub-optimal for the most important contest of the year.

Now off to watch some ice hockey in good company.

Feb 202006
 

Linked to by Matti, read a very good op-ed piece by Flemming Rose, the editor for Jyllands-Posten, in Washington Post.

Originally the infamous cartoons were published to admonish the culture of self-censorship in Europe, but as is now widely known, the tale got out of hand slowly but with a frightening mass.

Flemming Rose explains well, does not apologize and draws parallels to corresponding censorship committed during the Cold War. Of course, the world is never a black’n'white place, and the argumentation rings hollow in some places.

But the message is clear: a satire cannot threaten anything. And freedom of expression shall not be sacrificed because the listeners are unwilling to hear the message.

Feb 202006
 

Sweet!

  • The Believer/McSweeney crowd will publish the first issue of Wholpin, a dvd-zine filled with short films. I want, especially when it includes unpublished bits by Spike Jonze. But am denied purchase by Amazon, it would seem, as “Currently, item can be shipped only within the U.S”. Well, this is where ebay will come in useful, certainly.
  • FNORD. A classified sequel to the classic game of world-domination and losing friends.
  • Chuck Norris, meet U-15, the last man you’ll ever challenge to a staring contest.
  • Yet more funky lego-constructions. This time it’s Babbage’s difference engine.
  • Ok, ok. Joss Whedon’s Firefly was vastly better than the average show, and untimely cancelled. But this attempt shooting for a second season seems a tad optimistic. Considering that Serenity didn’t exactly break the box office.
  • Google Earth, the nighttime version. Images have ugly watermarks, but squint hard, and the world’s a better place for sure.
  • Museum of Hoaxes. This will spruce up a boring meeting. Something to visit again and again. And when the museum’s no longer enough, it’s time to take a plunge into the wild world of urban legends. The real thing, not the D-class teen slashers of yesteryear.
  • What do you get when you mix up an ancient Nintendo classic, the chorus of an Aerosmith song and a vice-president with quail-shaped friends: Cheney’s got a Gun. This is less safe for work than the previous. At least mute the laptop before clicking.

What does mine say?

Feb 202006
 

Let the games continue. The finnish ice hockey team continued over-achieving by shutting out the reigning olympic champions, and inventors of the sport 2-0.

Again, it was the speed of the finnish offense and especially the difference over the slowish canadian defense that made the game. And Antero Niittymäki, the finnish goalie had yet another fabulous game. Denying the likes of Rick Nash, Jarome Iginla and dozens of other hungry strikers their lone chances to score was pleasant to watch.

Next up is Germany, in a meaningless round-robin game. And then on to playoffs, where the finns face USA on wednesday.

In other news, not everybody appreciates the onslaught of wintersports, and some new events have been invented to counter the boredom inherent in say, 50 kilometer cross-country. Bad taste-alert applies, and the material in general is a distant second to the old masters.

EDIT 26.8.2008: The satiiri.org exists, but that’s about it.

Feb 192006
 

Biggest upset in the olympic hockey actually happened before the Finland – Czech Republic game had its opening whistle blown. Switzerland beat Canada 2-0. Despite them having already won the Czechs, this was a surprise.

The finns’ game against the czechs was the first real test of the team, the previous two (Italy and a surprisingly quiet Switzerland) having been just trial runs.

From the beginning the game had all the makings of a classic. Extreme pace, with dangerous situations in both ends. Finland came out on top, with two beautiful and two ugly goals against the two by the opponent. Then again, it’s worth remembering that this is not a sport where style in scoring matters, and all goals are counted.

Stylewise, however, the finnish team got a big black demerit from Jarkko Ruutu’s ugly smash on Jaromir Jagr. No concussion nor broken bones thankfully, but blood on ice meant a 5-minute no-comeback penalty. Which was killed effectively. The game did not suffer further violence (apart from a token brawl), without a tight leash by the referee this might have turned into a much less enjoyable game.

It was a great game and today’s followup against Canada ought to be interesting, especially when the adversaries are incensed over having lost to a minor country.

Watched the game in Chelsea, a sports bar packed to the gills. Had good visibility on multiple screens, only occasionally marred by bystanders. Had a ten-minute forced stay outside when a fire alarm tripped during the first period. The place was emptied, and customers allowed back inside only after the first goal had been scored.

EDIT 26.8.2008: NBC no longer stocks the olympics-related news.

Feb 182006
 

Noted that the new school boardgames have indeed been assimilated into Finland. The local publishers, led by eponymous Lautapelit have pumped a lot of these games into the market, and the flow shows no indication of slowing down. Of course, it’s not just German games that are showing up, but boardgames in general – they seem to be undergoing a renaissance even in the states.

The classic Carcassonne and Settlers of Catan led the assault, naturally published locally years after the original editions, but lately the pace has been turned up by several notches. The extremely well-recived Caylus arrives almost instantly when it starts picking up positive reviews. And the publication schedule of lautapelit has a bunch of interesting entries slotted for spring: Oltre Mare, the reigning king of games: Puerto Rico, and a few more expansions for Carcassonne.

The games have been well-received, with positive reviews for both Carcassonne and Through the Desert in hesari, and the games have been sighted in bars – supplementing the usual Trivial Pursuit and Monopoly being offered for customers.

Feb 182006
 

Attempted to browse some professional literature today, but was dismayed by the virtual halving of the Dataclub shop.

Instead of yards upon yards filled with nothing but computer-related books, the shopfloor had been invaded by travel guides, novels and such. Meaning that the amount of space devoted to the shop’s mainstay has diminished.

And nope, didn’t find what I was looking for. Time to head towards Amazon… Once again.

Feb 172006
 

Been watching the third season of Seinfeld.

It’s not something to consume with maximum speed like Lost or its addictive kin. Just something to catch a couple of episodes to while off an hour here or there.

Only watched occasionally on television. The finnish scheduling was odd, bouncing between days and slots, and catching or missing an individual episode was never truly important.

It’s an interesting show. Most episodes have less plot than B-division sitcoms, yet the neurotic characters and snappy dialogue help maintain enough interest in the proceedings.

Despite being produced by a large broadcasting company, the show never falls into the overly sentimental gap and retains a cold and cynical attitude. This is mainly due to the characters, who basically epitomize the all too common human shortcomings, and have analogues in Oz: Kramer obviously has no brain, and is thus a twin of the Scarecrow; George no guts, equalling the Lion; and Jerry, as the top cynic of the show is a spitting image of the heartless Tin Man. Elaine? Easy, she’s Dorothy, just shopping for new shoes…

And the cast was indeed sent to Oz, of the Emerald City variety.

The dvdization of the series is consistently above par – commentaries and “notes about nothing” abound in the episodes, and the packaging is faultless (though I never got the chance to purchase the really neat variants with pepper shakers). The six first seasons have now been released, I’ll probably end up picking them the rest at a leisurely pace. They seem to be out in Finland pretty much the same time as in the states. Which is good enough.

Feb 142006
 

It’s been a while – here’s some things that are worthy a look, but not much more writing than a single witty sentence:

Feb 122006
 

The flu seems to have passed by almost unnoticed. Coughed one day, had a hurting throat for another and a runny nose for a couple. Not bad.

And reviews indicate Cathedral did play Hopkins (Witchfinder General) pretty much after I started heading towards a ride home. Still glad that I did leave early – the next morning was much easier with an extra hour of sleep.