Sep 302008

I resigned from Nokia Siemens Networks yesterday, bringing a 10+ year career to a close. And sure, obviously most of it was not spent working for NSN that was founded in 2006.

Stay tuned for further episodes.

Is grass indeed greener on the other side of the fence?

Sep 282008

Saw a performance by the Tiger Lillies on saturday night. And came away impressed, very impressed.

The three-piece team managed to put together a two hour show packed with profanities (pretty much all of the seven words you can’t say on television were covered), executed with scary precision. I’d been exposed to the band, so the high-pitched vocals from a white-faced accordionist were not that much a shock. But plenty of things were. And I think the drummer managed to surprise even himself during the violent drum-solo played with three squeaky plastic hammers (the maimed drumkit was somewhat patched together during the intermission).

Tiger Lillies on stage at Korjaamo in Helsinki

Musically the performance was excellent – with unconventional instruments put to good use on stage. The presence of a theremin was a definite bonus – this was the very first time I actually saw one played. But the multitude of instruments (which included a plastic mouse) paled in comparison to the vocals. Martyn Jacques’ background in opera clearly showed and sounded.

The aesthetics of ugliness were indeed very well exposed in the cabaret. The topics were quite well concentrated on the darker side of life: freaks, prostitutes and perversions. With a good measure of bodily functions thrown in for good measure.

The venue, Vaunuhalli at Korjaamo was a pleasant surprise. The room was way bigger than it initially seemed. And with a steep ascent towards the rear, the backseats are not totally disadvantaged. But with unassigned seats, it definitely pays off to show up in time.

Sep 282008

Helvetica PosterGary Hustwit’s Helvetica was my last movie of this year’s Rakkautta&Anarkiaa-festival.

Yes. It’s about a font. And no, there are no action scenes.

Nope, just interviews, some of them interesting, some not, with various graphic designers.

Learned a few things, but also came close to nodding off.

The conclusion: since Helvetica is ubiquitous already, there’s no real danger (nor adventure) in continuing its use.

Arial was badmouthed less than expected.

And what’s pretty much the first thing seen after walking out of Andorra. That’s right, a poster for a gig at Redrum. Audaciously laid out in Helvetica Bold.

Sep 282008

Romuralli V - where\'s the puck?Participated in the semi-irregular 2-on-2 tablehockey tournament on friday evening.

Played better than on the previous occasion, and managed to snag a second place in the spades division (sixth overall, I figure). And as a surprise bonus, actually won a playoff game. But was thrown back to earth in the semifinals, where the eventual winners of the whole tourney wiped the ice with us at 5-1.

  • Multi-goal games: Way more than previously.
  • Rounds wearing the golden helmet: One (curtailed scoring after that).
  • Own goals: One, I think. A vast improvement over RRIV.
  • Best kebab of the town: Still served by Eerikin pippuri.
  • Animal to which the bartender speed can be compared: Snail.
  • Coming back to the sixth installment: Sure.
Sep 272008

CSNY/Déjà Vu PosterCSNY/Déjà Vu is a film that documents the Crosby Stills Nash & Young 2006 tour on Neil Young’s Living With War album.

Very few songs are played to the full extent – the film concentrates on the timelessness of the musical protests against an ongoing unpopular war. Parallels to the Vietnam war (and the Kent State shooting of 1970) are not left to the audience, the movie is explicit in its message.

The audience reactions, especially in Atlanta to Let’s Impeach the President vary expectedly – some see the rabble-rousing lyrics as nothing short of high treason, whereas others think that it is vital to be able to question authority. And the point is hammered home with an off-hand statement pointing out that while the seventies’ protest songs (especially Ohio) got a lot of airtime – nothing suchlike happens now, the radio is packed to the brim with songs devoid of any kind of message.

Sep 272008

No End in Sight PosterCharles Ferguson’s No End in Sight shows the non-military side of the occupation of Iraq. And the streams of mistakes made by misguided officials that continue to affect the lives of millions still.

This is a document film that doesn’t pull its punches. Bad decisions and their consequences are shown explicitly on screen. Unsurprisingly quite a few of the figures of authority refused to participate in the production – but some of the interviewed individuals are responsible for some of the worst policies. Whether they come off as badly deluded incompetents or staunch believers is left to the viewers to decide.

It is scary to see how amateurishly one of the biggest endeavours of the decade was undertaken – the people responsible for managing the occupied country were given next to nothing as tools. It’s noted that planning the occupation of Germany in the second world war was begun two years before the regime capitulated, in Iraq’s case the whole planning was done in fifty days by people who had no idea what they were doing.

The decision-making officials come off as arrogant and self-righteous. In Rumsfeld’s case that’s not really news to anyone. But the man whose handwriting is visible in the utter descent into chaos following the disbanding of the Iraqi army seems eerily convinced that he was doing the right thing. With no oversight in place, nor means to question authority, the policy was enacted as written – resulting rampant lawlessness that continues to this day.

As a movie No End in Sight is effective, it stalls momentarily a couple of times, but that’s to be expected given the complexity of the subject.

This great documentary film should be broadcast in the states just before one of the big presidential debates, to show exactly how and why the occupation is not going as planned.

Sep 272008

Mamoru Oshii’s Skycrawlers was my second and last piece of anime of the festival.

Skycrawlers happens in an alternate Earth, where waging of war is outsourced to mercenary air force companies. And that results in beautifully rendered scenes of aerial combat. In contrast to the spectacular scenery and machinery, the characters are sparsely drawn.

Slowly the underlying themes of identity and memory start to emerge, and despite the protagonists persistence in trying to drown them in wine and bowling, the plotline slowly pushes the glitter aside and demans attention from the audience.

Despite its constant presence on screen, I don’t think I’ll take up smoking while leaning on walls in a bomber jacket. No matter how cool it appears to be in a movie.

(Strangely enough, no poster image for the movie appears to have been released.)

Sep 272008

Eagle vs. Shark PosterThe first thing apparent from Eagle vs. Shark is the murderously thick kiwi accent with which the initial monologue is spoken. It takes a moment or two to adjust, but following that the dialogue is actually understandable.

Eagle vs. Shark is a twisted romance. Laced with great chunks of understated humor. And brimming with strange characters, most of which have crossed the borderline of believability. The film treats the whole ensemble with respect, the characters are not mocked because of being socially handicapped, only because of the truly horrible decisions they end up making.

Napoleon Dynamite is a definite influence, but Eagle vs. Shark ends up superseding that sleeper. And no movie that introduces a lovingly crafted mock-up of Mortal Kombat called “Fight Man” cannot be respected enough.

Sep 272008

Full Metal Village PosterFull Metal Village attempts to play up the juxtaposition between a sleepy village and the hordes of metalheads that invade Wacken for an extended weekend annually.

And fails in the attempt.

While the bits on the visiting fans vary between interesting and cringe-inducing, the bits on the villagers remain uniformly boring. And since the ratio inbetween the categories does not favor the former, Full Metal Village ends up being a very boring movie. While the characters interviewed have occasionally interesting things to say, the slow pacing hurts.

Props to the director for using Ensiferum for one of the very few stage scenes.

Sep 262008

This week’s games were a split – Hakkapeliitat won, niners lost.

Hakkapeliitat won and took a position on top of the standings. Leading the march were the two running backs – both Marion Barber and Frank Gore (Cowboys and ‘niners, respectively) put up formidable yards in their games. And the air force responded to the gropos call, all three of the wide receivers scoring in double figures. The first minuses of the season were hauled in by the Patriots’ defense that was turned into swiss cheese at the feet of the Miami running game.

Niners lost pretty much on account of a single opponent. Ronnie Brown of Miami Dolphins single-handedly massacred the still high-flying Patriots by running for four touchdowns and passing for one to add insult to injury. The Cincinnati air force finally clicked, and the previously well-hidden T.J. Houshmandzadeh returned to his scoring habits. The rookie brigade had a quiet night, especially Eddie Royal, whose single point was the low mark for the season. Chicago’s defense and Nick Folk continued their scoring ways, though neither of them put up an exceptional performance this week.

Apart from a surprise acquisition of Ronnie Brown for the Hakkapeliitat (the owner waived him before the sunday’s game) the transactions for the week were to cover the incoming byes on the upcoming games.

Bring on week four.

Sep 252008

This week’s photo thursday challenge derives its topic from a poem in finnish. Basically the instruction is to provide a heavy secret.

#103:  A Heavy Secret

My choice is the attached photo, of ground zero in New York, less than half a year after the 9/11 attack. Most of the rubble had been excavated immediately, but work was still going on at the site.

Even now the world is still reeling from the aftershocks of the event, so the burden of secrets must be heavy indeed.

Sep 222008

99 Francs Poster99 Francs, Jan Kounen’s critical take on the advertising industry was the only movie of the festival I watched outdoors. Indeed, the R&A-festival traditionally forms the tail end of the outdoor presentations at Engel, and this year was no exception.

I loathed Kounen’s previous film, Blueberry. It managed to take a perfectly decent western movie, and turn it into a pretty but ultimately empty trip to innerspace when the protagonist ingests some serious peyote.

The very same mannerism rears its ugly head here. The inevitable coke binges are visualized in a psychedelic and longwinded fashion.

But fortunately they remain sidelined for almost the entire length, and the plot actually advances.

The satirical depiction of the life in an advertising agency veers between believable (a beautifully realized brainstorming session) to the utterly bonkers (which, obviously, may be just the protagonist’s drug-addled synapses misfiring). I’m pretty sure the executives of Danone were not amused with the target of the bluntest attacks.

Jean Dujardin in the starring role occasionally bore a striking resemblance to Josh Holloway (of Lost fame), a fact that took almost half of the distance to figure out.

And sure, it was growing cold outside after the sunset. But a spare hoodie, a big blanket and a cup of seriously spiked tea helped endure the chill.

Sep 222008

Astropia PosterAstrópía was the first truly good movie of the festival. Pretty much par for the course, I didn’t worry too much about the uneven progress thus far.

The first thing apparent from Astrópía is its origin. The characters spout icelandic, and never let go.
The occasional english phrases folded in are there just for contrast.

The movie is a beautifully realized Beauty and the Geek. A model-class blonde is forced to seek out employment in a gameshop upon a sudden turn of events. After the expected clashes with the people threatened by the presence of a misfit (in their circles), the movie turns even better. Occasional injections of scenes from an ongoing role-playing campaign – definitely played at a table, the film disrespects the live action players quite fiercely – and the reality and fantasy mix very well at the hands of the creative team.

Definitely a movie I intend to seek out in dvd form. If only to inflict on gamer and non-gamer friends alike. And with partial finnish funding, such a release is not too outlandish a concept to consider.

Sep 212008

Evangelion 1.0 PosterThe first animated film of the festival was Evangelion: You Are (Not) Alone.

As far as I can understand, this movie was the first part of a quadrilogy, that reimagines the very popular Neon Genesis Evangelion anime series.

To someone who’s never seen a single episode of the show, this movie was both over- and underwhelming.

While the imagery is pretty, the action constant and the interpersonal relationships appropriately angsty, it’s still rather hard to understand the plot. The script is full of references to unknown things, and with the dialogue bristling with abbreviations, the storyline was occasionally challenging to figure out.

I’m pretty sure that this quartet of movies is an easy introduction into the subject, and with all the rest of them slated for release in 2008, this review probably would warrant an update once the whole epic has been watched.

Sep 212008

The annual Darts Association cup meant yet another bout of Kangaroo.

Didn’t suck as bad as on couple of previous occasions, but came nowhere near qualifying to the later rounds of playoffs.

Then again, this being a birthday party, the tossing of darts was just a side feature of the occasion, not the root cause for the gathering.