Nov 302008

Mamma Mia release party of sorts

  • It’s far better to bump into a commercially inspired recitation of Abba classics in the metro than into scarily strung-out guys talking to themselves.
  • To avert confusion, if a color movie is rendered in black&white in a director’s cut version, this fact should be made abundantly clear in the packaging.
  • Things rules (and more about that later).
  • Getting stuck in profoundly stalled traffic is much more bearable with a conveniently available magazine.
  • Chinese Democracy keeps on getting better after multiple rounds, but it failed to impress the Chinese officials.
  • Watched a rather boring hockey game and endured a shortish nachspiel, details available at mr. Srpnt’s blog.
  • Missed the fire that seems to have gutted Botta (that’s what you get for going home with a train).
Nov 302008

It’s been a good while since any recent discoveries were advocated in the blog, so here goes with a list of some things picked up recently – paired with a new blog is a good entry within.

Nov 292008

Älä Osta MitäänOnce again, managed to semi-succeed in the rather hypocritical Buy Nothing-day.

Bought no goods at all, only food and drink from cafeteria at work and later at a bar. But since spending money is considered a sin as well, this was by no means a rousing success.

Didn’t get a cold turkey from shunning away from shopping, but there’s still some goods I definitely aim to pick up today: Killers’ newest record, a warm-ish shirt and food for starters.

Nov 272008

Based on the fact that I’ve liked every author I’ve read of the selection, the remaining half of the top 10 science fiction novelists of the ’00s ought to be investigated sooner or later. At least the descriptions of some of the thus far unfamiliar authors output seem interesting.

  • Charles Stross: I’m a loyal fanboy, not all his books shine, but most of them do. Glasshouse didn’t, the others range from good to excellent.
  • Richard Morgan: Only read Altered Carbon thus far, better than OK, but his brand new fantasy novel seems far more interesting than the rest of the Takashi Kovacs-sequence.
  • Alastair Reynolds: Started strong, but the last two bits of the Revelation Space-saga quite sucked. The newer novels have shown recovery, though. Chasm City remains a favorite.
  • Ken McLeod: Star Fraction was a fine piece of work, but the acclaimed new novel Execution Channel had the worst deus ex machina ending I’ve ever witnessed.
  • Peter Hamilton: The finnish paper industry thanks the author, whose books feature on the heavyweight ring. Haven’t read anything but the Reality Dysfunction-sequence.
  • Vernor Vinge: The Rainbows End was OK, but I liked it far less than expected – it was surprisingly laborious to read.

[ Again via The spectacularly obtuse blog, and do take a look at five things I learned about women from the James Bond books as well. ]

Nov 272008

#110:  GlassThis week’s photo thursday challenge is glass.

My take is the attached image, of a classic Dali melting clock, as reproduced in the Swarovski Kristallwelt in Innsbruck. The odd reflection of a Keith Haring-piece in the southeast corner is an unexpected bonus. The photograph was indeed taken in suboptimal conditions and it’s reflected in the less than glorious finish.

I originally thought about using a wineglass for this challenge, but it turned out that I didn’t have any good images readily available, and opening a bottle of champagne in the middle of the night just for a couple of good shots of the bubbles floating upwards in the liquid would not have been the brightest idea of the week.

Nov 252008

I lost both games this weekend purely due to bad player choices.

Both niners and hakkapeliitat were down by a mile after the sunday games, but a massively high-scoring affair on monday night football almost set things right. Almost. But almost never counts.

Hakkapeliitat lost because I opted not to play Marques Colston and ran Cincinnati’s air force instead. Turns out that the Saints offense had a day for the cards, and Colston picked up both serious yards and a single TD. The running backs were uniformly quiet – both Barber and Gore had a very quiet game when San Francisco lost to Dallas.

Niners took a two point loss. And with three players producing a single point, and Joey Galloway netting a zero, this loss was a pure case of digging my own hole. Any one of Boss, Hightower or Colston on the field would have sealed a victory. But that never happened, and the less-than-productive guys’ output meant that niners are back at .500. The Chicago defense returned to form after a weak week, but it would have been unfair to have expected any more than four picks from them.

Bring on week thirteen (and fourteen, which ends the regular season).

Nov 252008

Kyösti Pöysti from PasilaOne of the gloriously good discoveries of this fall has been Pasila, a simplistic animation that combines absurdism with the basic ingredients of a finnish police show.

While the animation is on the basic side (but very well done overall), and the plotlines border on the ridiculous, it’s the twin mainstays of good television that make Pasila worthwhile: characters and dialogue.

The characters are surreal – yet figments of them seem to be present in a lot of finns.

The dialogue is rapid-fire, and packed with sentences and expressions of such power that they insinuate themselves into everyday discussions.

The protagonist, Kyösti Pöysti, a pacifier-sucking junior detective, combines the two. And manages to add enough anxieties and struggles with everyday life into the mix to evolve way beyond a simple caricature.

Suomalainen rikos on huonosti suunniteltu, toissijaisista motiiveista tehty ja useimmiten sekä uhrin että tekijän kannalta lähinnä vaivaannuttava kokemus. Poliisin tehtävä on hakea tekijä kotoa, solvata tätä kunnes tämä murtuu itkuun ja siitä sitten pikkuhiljaa paranee ihmisenä eikä enää ryssi.

Even if the plotlines turn out out of the ordinary, the underlying themes are very topical. The blatant disrespect doled out to blathering morning television hosts, obligatory positivity and whatever seems to have pissed off the writers earlier is nothing less but awe-inspiring.

I’m now ten episodes into the first season’s dozen, and the news of a second season kicking off in January was a very pleasant surprise discovered while seeking out proper references on the web.

Nov 232008

Thursday Challenge 20.11.2008:  Hobbies

This week’s Thursday Challenge of hobbies wasn’t too easy to answer.

I seem to have too many photos of hobby-related things. In the end figured that this marine aquarium shown in the exhibition put out by Helsingin Akvaarioseura for Akvariets Dag 2004 fits the bill nicely. It doesn’t concentrate only on the contents of the tank, but shows the whole nine yards.

Nov 232008

Bus collision on Saturday evening

  • Rich Hall’s cancellation was by far the lowest point of the week.
  • While snow regularly surprises the finnish drivers, this saturday night bus-on-bus collision was nothing more than carelessness.
  • Whereas the sunday’s blizzard was a reminder that despite two lousy winters mother nature still packs a punch.
  • Rediscovery of Moebius as a comic artist was a pleasant surprise (more on that later).
  • Finding quality calendars is not an easy task.
  • Water is better suited to washing the kitchen floor than champagne (and nothing more needs to be said).
Nov 232008

Der Baader Meinhof Komplex PosterWatched Uli Edel’s Baader Meinhof Komplex yesterday, and came away impressed and stuck with questions – after all, this wasn’t exactly a well-known period to me.

The plot concerns the rise and fall of the Rote Armee Faktion, the terrorist organization that conducted several very visible operations against both foreign and domestic targets in the sixties and seventies.

The film begins with a demonstration against the Shah’s visit to Berlin, a demonstration that turns brutally violent in a blink. The initial phase of the group is described well, but soon the film becomes unfocused, as new characters come and go, unintroduced (obviously the facelessness can be a part of being a part of a criminal organization). And by the time of the capture of the group’s leaders the later generations are shoved in without any exposition on why they are there.

The ensuing courtroom scenes, while on the long side, do not turn out drag on, since there’s very little on the legal proceedings shown in them. They instead concentrate on pointing fingers against the establishment. The strange co-ed incarceration in Stammheim is given a lot of exposure, and it’s never really explained why and how the prisoners are alternately able to listen to news, and alternately completely cut off. Considering the Stammheim being a brand-new high security prison hosting the public enemies #1, the ease with which guns are smuggled into the facility and successfully kept hidden stretches credibility.

The actors, especially the Ensslin/Baader/Meinhof-trio, have been well-cast – too bad the plot is too turbulent for them to explore their characters in any serious depth. For the most part the dialogue is capped to a couple of sentences, and especially Andreas Baader comes off as a too impulsive and arrogant guy well over his head.

The anti-american propaganda is almost a constant barrage on screen, but in describing a left-wing group toning it down would have seriously revised history. The obligatory newsreels showing the bombing of Vietnam (one of the keystone’s for the RAF’s protests), rise of Richard Nixon and the Black September attack on the Munich olympics is used only to show the world outside of Germany, the implications of the group’s actions within the nation are glossed over with a couple of news flashes.

The scenery is effectively set. The urban environment is ugly and packed with extras in appropriate clothes. And everybody smokes. All the time, even when participating in a panel discussion on live television. This is rubbed in so much that it threatens to become distracting. An application of bureaucratic method (and a truly old school computer) is featured briefly – but it is never stated whether its use ever leads to any success. The government take on events is funneled through a single official (played by Bruno Ganz), who unconvincingly enough seems to be the only one with any grasp of the group’s intents.

The violence is commonplace on screen, and not glamourized at all. Both the terrorists and the officials hounding them use a serious dose of overkill in their actions. There’s plenty of machine guns and plenty of blood – and a scene that rivals the vehicular slaughter in both Godfather and Bonnie&Clyde.

The music is used to lay out the era – the use of Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and The Who (My Generation, obviously) must have cost a small fortune.

As a historical film I found this to be quite close to Steven Spielberg’s München, though that movie was a much better self-contained package. Then again, the plot on that was that of a single (albeit long) revenge mission, not the proceedings of a decade of terrorism. On the other hand, München was much better laid out plot-wise, since it effectively ran on two parallel streams. This movie is entirely linear, and connections between events are not spelled out.

As a summary: Baader Meinhof Komplex is a good, thought-provoking film that describes the era of RAF and the “Deutscher Herbst” effectively. It tries to do much more than it actually accomplishes. But it also insiduously leaves seeds, entices the viewers to further investigate into the events shown.