Sunday, November 28, 2004

Immortal men, glorious history

A curious animal, man is. Realises his mortality and therefore chooses to seek immortality. Immortality in deeds, myth, legend, verse or anything. It's such a strange concept, really. The ambition or desire to be remembered, to live on. The fear of being forgotten in death. Why should it matter? I'm not saying I wouldn't want to be remembered long after I'm gone, but I'm not exactly going to be able to check up on things later on, am I? So why is it that it seems so important to get something meaningful, worth remembering, done? A psychological defense mechanism against the thought of not existing? (Yes, as you can see, I'm not a firm believer of an afterlife of any kind...) Against the thought of being of no importance in the grand scale of things? A desperate try, therefore, to convince oneself of having a purpose?

A lot to ponder, for sure. And why such an existential angst attack? Well. I saw Oliver Stone's Alexander today. It's the second movie in a very short time that deals with the desire of man to reach immortality, to be etched into the common memories of mankind. There is Achilles in Troy, and now Alexander the Great in Stone's epic. Achilles, of course is frequently mentioned in Alexander's story, too.

Naturally, the legend of Achilles is just that, a legend. There could be a historical person who has inspired Homer to write about such a character, but we'll never know it for sure. Alexander, however, is a real person who lived some 2300 years ago and that can be proved without any doubt. It's even quite clear that he had a great war horse named Bucephalus. In the movie, by the way, the horse was just magnific - a huge black steed of pure power and grace. I want one of those too!

What I couldn't help but wonder while watching the movie was the real person who Alexander was. Did he indeed think that he'd love to be like Achilles and be remembered throughout ages as a great hero and warrior? It was one of those really strong feelings of "otherness" I sometimes get when watching historical documents and movies that are based on real persons. What exactly did Babylon look like when Alexander first rode through the lion gates? What did he really look like himself? (I did like Colin Farrell in the role, mind you.) What doesn't seize to amaze me is the thought that there actually was a young man who, by the time he was my age, had conquered much of the known world. He lived, breathed, slept - just like any of us in this time.

I don't know if this makes me a hopeless romantic who shouldn't even think about a career in teaching history or just a person with too vivid an imagination... In any case, I do think it's one of the best things history can offer me, this sense of wonder. Very much like good literature (especially science fiction & fantasy), it makes me stop and think. Oh, to be able to travel in time! I'd love to see how Alexander and Hephaestion rode to battle (not to mention each o... oh no, I'm not going into that direction now. Shoo, thoughts, back to line, go on!) or... Well, I'd love to see quite a lot of things & moments from the past.

So sure, I'd love to be immortal. I'd just love to have been immortal from the dawn of the first high cultures of mankind. I wouldn't want to miss anything, really. (I'm not asking for much, now am I, Santa?)

And the movie then? I liked it. I don't think it deserves to be smashed into little itsybitsy pieces with the sharp weapons of the critics. I do think Stone would've been better off, if he'd edited some of the fight scenes a bit more. Now they were numbingly long and bloody, for no apparent reason. I'm sure he wanted to portray the chaos of war and the necessary cruelty involved, but the point could've been made with shorter battle sequences, too.

Visually the movie was breathtaking. The city of Babylon (they had put the palace of the Hanging Gardens into the scenery, too, which I thought was wonderful - and another great sight was the harbor of Alexandria, with the light house. library and all) was amazing, the mountains beautiful. The costume designers had done a great job, I thought the Persian dancers were especially interesting. They did seem like they'd stepped down from an ancient wall painting. I mentioned already that I thought Colin Farrell was a piece of eye candy for me, but omg, so were a few other of the young men of the movie.

There was this servant boy (well, a young man) Alexander had. Oh dear me. He didn't even look real, for cryin' out loud. He was just one of those people who are too beautiful and because of that they seem more like ancient Greek statues than actual living human beings. But dear, oh dear, the boy was nimble (ergo, not made out of marble, I presume)! There was a scene where eight or then young men performed a dance to Alexander and his court. Wow. The guy reminded me of the first time I ever saw Horacio Cifuentes perform oriental dance in Helsinki. I didn't know a man could move like that. :) (Horacio, by the way, is a whole other story, maybe I'll tell it some day, but until I do, all you need to know is that his shimmies are -ahem- great...)

While Hephaestion (Jared Leto) had his moments, I did prefer Alexander most of the time. ;) What I don't get, is the big deal that has been made out of the love between the two male characters. The Greek people trying to sue Oliver Stone for portraying Alexander as bisexual? Why on Earth would you want to do that? The cultural and moral values of modern people can't be applied to an ancient culture. It should be well known to the Greeks themselves that in the ancient Greek culture men having male lovers wasn't really anything out of the ordinary. I thought that the story of the love Alexander and Hephaestion shared was really quite beautifully told. There weren't any explicit scenes involving them - actually the only scene that could be considered a bit more explicit was the scene where Alexander and Roxane first shared a bed but then, it's the "normal", heterosexual way of things, so I suppose that is acceptable for the American (and Greek) audiences, too... So all in all, what's the big deal? Alexander's deeds aren't going to be any less magnificent or tragic, if we acknowlege the fact that he most likely didn't share a bed with just his wives...

Oh dear, it's midnight and I'm still sitting here. Have to go to bed now. :) It'd be great to ponder the movie a bit more, but I need the sleep, mortal as I am.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Wrong species, oops!

Remember the odd piece of garden decoration I told about last week? I had another look at it yesterday (on my way home from Parainen) and -gasp- noticed that I had totally misjudged the poor thing. It's not a floating head of a cute bambi, oh no. They weren't antlers I had seen sticking up from the head, they were ears. I had to adjust my thought patterns really quickly because of this new piece of information. It's a small donkey. Deer, donkey - an easy mistake to make when driving by at 60 km/h in the dark, don't you think? :)

Another mistake I've made lately was to misspell the name of the band in the Finnish rant about pronouncing h in Finnish words. It's not Smack but Smak. Terribly sorry for that. But the song is still awful, no mistake there.

So. I stand (self)corrected now. Now I think I'll go and plan my dance classes for the evening. I'm so happy that the Christmas break begins next week. I'm having difficulties motivating myself to do the job. It's awful, really. The students have paid for the course and expect me to be cheerful and energetic when all I want to do is stay at home and read. Or watch movies. Or do anything else except for teaching a dance class. So the break will be more than welcome. Then I have only 12 more weeks to go in the spring, since I'm very seriously thinking about quitting teaching for a while at least after next spring term. I need to move on and start concentrating on real work and other things.

Oops. There we have it. See my motivation? I need to go now. :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

How wrong can it go?

Terribly, utterly and devastatingly wrong, it seems.

Sarin was kind enough to point out to me yesterday that a Scifi Channel production of Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea stories is going to be aired in the near future. It's a four episode miniseries which went into post-production sometime in September or so. My first reaction: "What? Is there really such a thing? Wow!" I think I had heard rumours of it at some point, but had completely forgotten all about it, so this really was news to me.

Earthsea is by far my absolute fantasy favorite besides Lord of the Rings. I love the subtle, almost minimalistic storytelling of Ms. Le Guin. She has created a beautiful, rich world and her stories of dragons, mages and the true power of names are elegant and thoughtful. I've always thought I'd love to see a good filmatisation of the stories, but at the same time I've been afraid that it'll never happen. The people who make fantasy filmatisations these days would face a true challenge in portraying a world where the biggest threats seem to be more of the philosophical kind than the war mongering kind. I'm sure the Earthsea stories could be made into a perfectly beautiful movie, too, but this production isn't going to be it.

As I surfed through the site of the miniseries I became more horrified by the moment. They've added a completely new side to the story, a frigging warlord (a Kargide king) who wants to rule the whole world and needs a mage by his side to do that. So he chases Sparrowhawk around to make him his minion or whatever. Nooooooo!! And on top of this, they've made the priestesses of Atuan look way too dressed-up and Kossil seems to be a beautiful young woman who hungers power to herself (wants to team up with the Kargide king, believe it or not) instead of a not-so-pretty and silently threatening character I visualised her to be. And they've cast a black man as Ogion! I never thought he'd be black, dark for sure, but black? Not that I have anything against black people, but the story hasn't got a black Ogion in it. Even Ged doesn't look like he's supposed to...

I'm so disappointed. Not surprised, though. Such gems as Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings -trilogy are truly rare. Sure he made some interpretations too, but he did, in my opinion, get the feel of the story right. I love Tolkien's work very much, but I really don't have that much to complain about Jackson's version of the story, either. (Well, he could've cast three more gorgeous elves - I truly would've wanted to see Elladan & Elrohir and Glorfindel! In the coronation scene there is a possible Glorfindel, but he would've deserved more time on screen...) Oops, got sidetracked there for a bit... The positive side of this Earthsea production is that it's going to save me some money. I don't think I need to buy the box set, when it comes out.

It's really so sad that the world of fantastic for some reason needs to have huge armies and battle scenes when fitted for the screen. That's so not the point in Le Guin's work. The author herself wasn't involved in the production (surprise, surprise) and has, rightly so, commented on some of the producers statements. Quite sternly, too. Good for her.

Ok, enough of that. Except for a bit more... I think I'll have a darned good time smashing the miniseries into little bits and pieces of utter crap if I ever see it. I promise to be a bigot and a true purist when it comes to commenting on this production. I will fail to see anything good in it and I will loudly claim that the books didn't have anything like that in them. :) (Well, to be honest, the scenery did look nice. They've obviously tried to make everything look good. Unfortunately it probably doesn't save the whole. Too bad.)

Well. The thesis doesn't write itself while I blog, so that's it for the day.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

To be or not to be?

Last night I went to the theatre with Maarit to see Hamlet. It was great! It was, as I think I mentioned before, a visiting theatre company's production and this was the last time they performed it in Turku.

There were only four actors playing all the roles. One man was both Horatio and Hamlet, one young woman was both Ophelia and the queen (plus a gravedigger), one man was the new king and Polonius. The fourth actor actually did have a bit more consistent role in playing Laertes, although he did double as an actor of the group that comes to the castle to perform according to Hamlet's wishes. Altogether I was surprised how easily they moved from character to another. Or rather, how easy it was to follow the transitions.

Hamlet, as portrayed by Ville Sandqvist, was a very physical character. They had chosen an appearance for him that reminded me somehow of Kenneth Branagh's marvellous performance in the movie Hamlet from a few years back, but Sandqvist's sheer delight of movement was amazing. He had all these little (and big) wiggles and facial expressions that told the audience he was acting crazy and the certain wiggle he did when he spoke about his father's death told the audience exactly how the old king had died. Besides all the wiggling he came very close to the audience all the time, which was very nice. He actually sat in the front row quite a bit, commenting the play from there. It all made the play seem very intimate (it was also a very small stage, so the actors really were brought very near) and I liked the atmosphere a lot. I got to laugh surprisingly many times, considering I was watching one of Shakespeare's most famous dramas.

The staging was very minimalistic. A wooden wall and a wooden plank. A big trunk and a few chairs. And a piano. They had also chosen an interesting way to portray the graveyard. They opened up the huge doors in the back and revealed the large storage hall behind the stage. The gravedigger was picking up skulls very far away from the audience - I liked the "otherness" of seeing the world behind the stage. It cleverly pointed out that behind all this life, there is a graveyard. We may close the doors that lead to it, but it's still there, whether we see it or not. Wow. This is why I love theatre. Such small decisions in staging, costuming and sounds can act as very powerful metaphors.

I did notice they had picked up a Macbethian detail into their version of Hamlet. The queen was constantly trying to rub something off her hands. The blood of the dead king, the proofs of guilt... Once again a detail I liked.

A very enjoyable evening, all in all. I'm eagerly waiting for Kansallisteatteri's (National Theatre) King Lear. It will open in March and it'll have Esko Salminen in the leading role. He's one of my absolute favorites in the Finnish world of theatre. I saw him in the Tempest quite some years ago and was totally blown away by the pure presence he has on stage. I think I have to book my tickets pretty soon, because I don't think I'm the only one who thinks that'll be a must-see.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

They actually paid for that?

Sometimes I just don't get it. Who in their right mind would pay for an ugly piece of ultimate kitsch, put it out in their front lawn and keep it there even though it's obviously broken? Last week I almost drove into the ditch because I had to turn my head to see the thing better. Following is the full story. :)

On my way to Parainen, there is a house. Lots of houses, sure, but this one is special. In a very kitschy and a bit creepy way. It's quite dark already when I drive by that house on Wednesday evenings and last week, as I mentioned, I had to take another look. There's this sphere of light in the middle of the very dark yard. Whattaheck, I thought. As I managed to get a second glimpse, I realised it wasn't a candle or any kind of normal piece of lighting one could have on the front lawn. It was one of those plastic animal statues you can buy for decoration. (I've always thought they're just as bad & ugly as the garden gnomes and would never get one myself, ever!) A cute little bambi, supposedly. But the curious thing about it is that it seems to have lights in it. If only it was that the whole bambi would be lighted, but no. It's just the frigging head! How creepy is that? A bambi's head floating about in mid-air in the middle of the front lawn. Alight. Gee, isn't that just the perfect way to embellish the yard? So not, for cryin' out loud! Brr, the things people buy...

Sitten pieni suomalainen ahdistuskohtaus. Oletteko kuulleet uutta biisiä, jonka nimi on Hallanvaara? Sen esittää nuorehko bändi nimeltä Smack. Aivan järkyttävää puuppaa. Laulu on paikoin ihan ihme kiekumista eikä laulaja osaa lausua suomea. Joka ikinen 'h' jää lausumatta. Niinpä laulu kuulostaakin osapuilleen tältä:"onko 'allanvaara vai saako sieltä mitä 'aluaa? --- talvi'arso peittää maan..." Aaaghhh! Järki lähtee! Miksei kukaan ole kertonut pojalle, että suomessa h kuuluu ääntää? Muita tämän bändin kappaleita en olekaan kuullut, mutta jos tätä 'iton 'allanvaaraa soitetaan koko 'elkkarin talvi, minulta poksahtaa päästä joku proppu aivan varmasti. Uaah.

Okay, that was a bit of a rant for the Finnish speaking people about a Finnish band that doesn't pronounce the 'h' in the words. Annoys the 'eck out of me, that's why I needed to vent a bit. No point in fuming about it in English, sorry about that. :)

Gotta go, need to eat. ;)

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Wouldn't you like to have an igloo?

I'm not exactly sure I would, but then again, nobody's asking me anyway. There it is, in the yard. The best part is that it's basically impossible to get in it at times (doors are, well, frozen) and when you do get in, you can't close the door behind you (it's still frozen).

Actually no. That's not the best part. The best part is that the igloo can be moved from one place to another quite simply - after you get in. Whether you're able to close the door behind you is actually a minor problem which can be solved with a piece of rope or your other hand. Quite possibly both.

Not to mention the fact that if you want to get the igloo moving, which requires you to get in, you'll have to leave home with a plastic bag full of hot water. Helps with the doors, you see. They are frozen, you remember?

If everything goes well, the igloo can be entered in about 10 minutes, which isn't that bad. To get it going one has to have a few more tricks available. Sometimes an extra battery, sometimes half a dozen swear words (the good Finnish ones, with lots and lots of r's), sometimes a few helpful passers-by. Anything and everything can be used. Sort of like in war and love, you know. I suppose it has to do with the fact that the igloo procedure is a war, of wills, if nothing else.

Oh, the joys of owning a car in the winter... Especially my car.

Yes, we had snow today. Winter's here for real. It was very curious, really. I went to work with dad this morning and when we drove to the school, there were only a few small prickles of sleet coming down. But nothing alarming about that. Tends to be that way in mid-November here in the South-Western parts of Finland.

I began my lesson, a 90-minute session, with the seniors. We were discussing literature (some 15 minutes into the lesson) when I looked out of the window. Snow. Not much, but the ground looked definitely white.

Add another 10 minutes into the discussion about different novels the students had read. I looked out of the window again and the whole atmosphere is white. I mean ground, mid-air and sky - everything. Wow, I thought. Isn't that something. Somebody just whitewashed the scenery. Interesting.

Yet another 10 minutes later, no more snow in the sky or mid-air. Only on the ground. But about 5 cm's worth of it. And everything in less than half an hour. Fun, fun.

I've got three more days to go at school. Has it really been four weeks already? Seems more like a week. Dear me. It'll be Christmas before I know it, if the time keeps flying like this.

What am I going to buy my brother for Christmas? This is the one thought that worries me every year about this time. He lives on his own now, so I don't have to worry about matching his (now ex)girlfriends taste in decor anymore. It should make things easier, but somehow I doubt it. Grumbled about this problem to Satu last weekend and she managed to make me feel like I'm already hopelessly late with my shopping. She told me she'd already purchased some gifts for her family.

Aaaarrrgggh. I'm such a bad person... :) I tend to get the last gifts bought about two days before Christmas eve. Despite all the nice thoughts I have every year about doing some gift shopping already during the fall sales - I never do. Oh well.

Ok, enough of pre-Christmas panic for now. I'm sure I'll have more time for it later. Now I'm going to go and read some more of The Unknown Soldier and then I'm going to sit very passively in front of the tv and watch something non-educational. There.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Lessons in aerodynamics

They didn't have those (the engineers) when they designed my car. Should've taken some, says I. Had one of those very interesting drives today, when I can't help but imagine my poor Skoda rolling over and straight into the ditch. The weather has been that bad the whole day. Stormy winds and rain. At least I have to say the car looks better when it's wet - the paint is normally completely dull & matte and the only way to make it look shiny, is to get it wet. Looks like a brand new car now. :)

Thank goodness it's Friday. I only have one more week of work and then it's back to my studies and my thesis. Amazing how fast the time goes. I sure do hope it slows down when I'm doing research and writing the "Big G".

Got some good feedback from my students today. One of the girls gave a short speech (they all did, because that was the theme of the lesson, giving speeches) on good and bad ways of learning communication skills. She used the communication skills course I'm teaching as an example of quality learning. :) Isn't that something? In addition I've noticed from the essays the students have been writing, that they have actually listened to me every once and a while. Most interesting.

Whee, I got tickets for Hamlet. I'm looking forward to going to theatre after a long, long time. It's hopefully going to be a god interpretation of the play, I'm sort of rewarding myself with a night at the theatre after I get done with work in Nousiainen. A nice thought it is, indeed.

Sunday is Father's Day and I need to go get dad something. Don't exactly know what yet, but a walk in the shopping centre will, no doubt, give me some ideas of how to spend my money wisely. (Whether I'm capable of "wisely spending my money" is a question well worth pondering a good long while about, but I'll let it pass now...)

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Hunting for Shakespeare and other, more remarkable stories

This one goes into the category of "more remarkable". As I've told before, I have a circle of friends that's growing unbelievably fast this fall in the form of little baby girls and boys. First there was the second daughter of the Suntila family, Venja Meri Annael, then came the firstborn son of Tomi and Hanne (Ville, he is) and this Monday was the day that Mari and Mikko's second child decided to finally present herself to the world. Many warm thoughts and congratulations to the proud parents of the little princess and, no doubt, even more proud little brother Aleksi.

In my life, work dominates. In a major way. Last night I did get a moment of relaxation, as I was invited to a friend's birthday party. Eeva turned 24 (she's so young...) and had decided that she wanted to celebrate in a local Italian restaurant. There were eight of us girls. We've all met at the university, but I don't see most of them very often anymore. So it was very nice to sit down and chat for a while. The food was delicious (I got pasta "Alla Rico", it had little mozzarella balls in it, yummy!) and there was enough of red wine for all. After the dinner Eeva invited us all to her place and put together a delightfully sweet dessert. Rest of the girls were also served gin tonics, but I had to say no - I had to leave the party early to do some work. So no gt's for the working girl... Not that I would've cared for any on a Tuesday night anyway. I'm getting old or something... ;)

Came home, did my work and went to watch a rather shocking documentary on tv. It was about a 36-year old man, who had a fatal skin disease. I didn't see the beginning of the documentary, so I'm not sure whether the disease itself is fatal or if the disease makes it more likely to get fatal cancer. (That's what the fellow in the document had, eventually.) Well, anyhow. The disease is such that the skin peels off if there's a scratch or a touch that is too strong. It's a genetic disorder and there's no cure for it, at least not yet. It's just unbelievable what can go wrong with the human genes. I never thought there could be such a disease.

Documentaries like that really make me value my life even more. And wonder about the people who, for example, want to ban stem cell (Is that the term? I don't remember for sure... Kantasolu?) research. If science could cure people with such horrid diseases like this one, I do think it should be done.

Oops, I wandered into some deep waters there. Well, I'll wade on to more shallow subjects, as is proper for this blog. :)

Shakespeare. (Did I just say shallow? Darn, I think I just took a dive deeper instead of wading anywhere...)

I've decided I need to see more Shakespeare on stage. I've seen only Tempest before (but then again, it was unbelievably amazing) so I thought I need more. I'll have to remember to call the city theatre tomorrow and ask if they still have tickets for the visiting theatre company's version of Hamlet. That'd be the first of this round. Then there is Macbeth. It can be seen in Tampere. Wonderful. The third Shakespeare I'd like to see before the year's end, is Midsummer Night's Dream. It'll open in Helsinki in the beginning of December. It's one of my favorites. The original is, of course, a delightful story, but I also love the version Neil Gaiman has done of it. Ah, wonderful. Now I just have to start asking around for people to come to all these plays with me. I've managed to book Maarit for a night of Hamlet (if I get the tickets...), but I'll have to start asking around for the others. Wink wink.

Gotta go now, have work to do. Blah. Luckily not much though, so I can enjoy the program on Charles II later in the evening. Fun, fun.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Respect MY authority!

No, I haven't had a fit in front of a class today. Instead there's been an episode of utter frustration and despair with... (you guessed it) ... my car.

The darned thing passed the annual check up last week (after the brake thingies had been replaced with shiny new ones) and just as I had thought that it wouldn't be causing me gray hairs for a while, it did just that. It didn't start yesterday as I tried to leave for Nousiainen. Some harsh words later I basically gave up and later in the evening came to Nousiainen with my brother. Royally pissed about the whole thing, obviously.

Well, today, after a nice day at work, we (dad and I, that is) went to see if there was anything that could be done about things. I had joked that the car probably starts right away, when dad stands next to it. And you know what happened?

Yes. Right. Exactly so. I seem to have no authority whatsoever when it comes to this vehicle. I think I may have to make a cardboard figure of dad just to fool the car to think dad is there to watch it.

But all in all, the car's running again so I shouldn't complain. But I know I'd have a few less worries, if I didn't have to worry about the car, too. I even dreamed last night that it wouldn't start and I had to run to work in the rain. Gaah.

Such is life. Life of an owner of an eastern European old car.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Long time, no see

My sincerest apologies for not blogging for a while. I've been completely swamped. And I mean all the way to my eyebrows. All the swamp things have been able to hop over my head without any problems lately.

It's beginning to seem obvious that when I get a regular job as a teacher, I will not be able to do anything else except work for at least a year or two. I won't have any spare time. I haven't really had any these past two weeks and it's beginning to take its toll. I was so exhausted yesterday that my temperature had risen way above normal and I had to skip practice. And today's practice in Uusikaupunki as well. I desperately needed the rest.

And what better way to rest (ok, besides sleeping, that is) than watch a few good movies. My friendly neighbor, the video rental place, was there to help. So I ended up crying my eyes out while watching Whale Rider. It's a beautiful movie about a young maori girl, who is named after a mythical leader of her people, Paikea. As the maori culture is facing difficult times in modern New Zealand, Paikea's grandfather had hoped his first grandson would be the next great leader of the people. Naturally, this role couldn't be filled by a mere girl, and young Paikea has to try to find her place in the world. When the ancient ones answer to her call and she becomes a whale rider, her grandfather has to reconsider. A movie with beautiful sceneries, amazing footage of huge whales swimming in the ocean and a touching story, a totally recommendable experience. I'm glad Keisha Castle-Hughes, who played Paikea, was nominated for an Oscar for her performance. She played the role with such grace and intelligence, it seemed almost unbelievable for such a young performer.

The second movie I watched was Spielberg's movie Catch Me If You Can. I should've watched this one before the sixties party we had. The movie tells the story of Frank Abagnale Jr., who became one of the most successfull con artists of his time. After being caught, he served some time in a high security prison, but was then recruited to the FBI, who of course had put him in prison in the first place. Quite a life story. The story was actually better than the movie. I felt like the movie would've needed a jolt of some kind. It was a bit anemic, I think. It seemed like Spielberg could've squeezed more out of the storyline, but as it was, the movie was ok. It was entertaining, for sure, but nothing remarkable.

So what else is new? Unfortunately, not the president of the US. A close call, once again, but unfortunately clear enough for mr. Bush to secure a second term. I'm not even going to begin to think about everything that can go wrong (or wronger) during the next four years. I was happy to notice, however, that my former home state of Illinois was a firm supporter of senator Kerry. And almost as happy to see that mr. Barack Obama was elected senator (in Illinois as well) and is now the sole black member of the U.S. Senate. I came across his campaign while digging into American politics, as one of my teachers at the University said he'd heard of a very charismatic politician named Obama. Naturally I had to find out who that was and what was the praised speech he'd given somewhere all about. Seems like the good people of Illinois made a good choice. Think about it - a young, black Democrat in a conservative Republican Senate... I do hope he's got what the job obviously takes.

Oh dear, the time. Kirsi's having a birthday party tonight and I have to start getting ready. I'm quite looking forward to a nice evening with a bunch of dear friends, because tomorrow I have to work. On top of everything else, I have to read half of Väinö Linna's novel The Unknown Soldier, so that I can discuss it with the students on Monday. It's been almost 10 years since I last read the book, so I'd better read it for real. Otherwise the discussion will be a bit, well, unprofessional. And since I expect the students to have read it, I'd better be prepared myself. Oh well, that's tomorrow's problem. Right now my biggest problem should be along the line of "whattaheckamIgoingtowear?". I'll be back, when I have time. Ta ta till then.