Saturday, December 30, 2006

Farewell, 2006

And so, the year comes to an end to the sound of rain. This is certainly the oddest weather for the new year's eve's eve. Clearly I remember new year's eves so cold I could not wear enough clothes to keep warm during the midnight fireworks. Also I remember several new year's eves with lots and lots of snow.

And what do we have now? Temperatures around +5 C and pouring rain. Odd, indeed.

But never mind the weather, I've been saying my goodbyes to this year by enjoying culture. Indoors.

Yesterday I went to see a play called Einstein, Weinstein & Wittgenstein performed on the small stage of the city theatre. It was a delightful romp about the two very famous professors, Einstein and Wittgenstein - and a third guy, perhaps less known by name but definitely known by habit to all people.

As the play is written by M.A. Numminen, the Finns should know what to expect of the text. Lots of witty references to popular culture, a whole lot of stuff from the actual theories of Einstein & Wittgenstein and well, lots of lewdness and absurd humour too.

Turns out that Mr. Weinstein is, as anyone who speaks any German can guess from his name, the master of drinking and intoxication. The "genie of the bottle", so to say. He manages to confuse the two serious professors by his antics - especially Wittgenstein is quite baffled at times. When Einstein tries to explain the world with physics, Wittgenstein through language, Weinstein pours them more wine.

The actor playing Wittgenstein was my new favourite, Mika Kujala, who was Death in the musical Elisabeth. (Remember my squees over him as Death? I thought so.) This time his role had less grandeur, but the socially awkward Wittgenstein was very endearing. He was serious, broody, shy and insecure. And funny as heck.

Einstein was played by Petri Rajala, a favourite of mine for many years now. I've seen him in several plays and even performed with him. (He's also a popular troubadour and he was playing in the same event where I and my friends were dancing - so in the end he played us a serenade and we danced to it. One of my fondest memories of performing!) His Einstein was silly and wise at the same time.

But the funniest of them all was the almost child-like Weinstein, played by Stefan Karlsson. He made Weinstein an epitome of the cliched university student / research assistant. Spending most of his time in bars and pubs, having a jolly good time doing what he knows best. Namely, researching the bottle, its contents and the effects of said contents on people. And for some reason he kept changing hats all the time.

After the play I was humming Wittgenstein's words to a tune they sang at the end of the play. "Worüber man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen." And I remembered why Wittgenstein's theories were among my favourites when I studied philosophy in senior high. In other words, if you have a chance, go see the play. It's entertaining on quite many levels.

Today's dose of culture was a movie. Guillermo del Toro's newest fantasy piece, Pan's Labyrinth (or El Laberinto del Fauno). It's a story of a young Spanish girl, who moves with her pregnant mother to live with her new step-father. It's the year 1944 and Ofelia's step-father is a cruel army captain of Franco's army, who coldbloodedly kills rebels and innocent bystanders alike.

To survive the horrors of her new home, Ofelia escapes to a fantasy world, where she is the long lost princess of the Underworld. She meets a faun in a labyrinth near the mill-turned-military-base she has to call home. The ancient faun gives her different tasks to fulfill in order for her to be able to return to her "real father", the King of the Underworld.

The movie is no bright spring picnic. It's cruel, gruesome and dark. It's disturbing, graphic and yet there is comfort to the idea of a little girl finding a way to cope with the bloody real world.
If faeries and fauns give some relief from the constant fear of the captain or the fear for her mother's and unborn baby brother's health, who can blame the girl?

Del Toro's work is impressive. The cuts between reality and fantasy are seamless, the imagery haunting.

The only thing that annoyed me about the film was the translation. I don't know if it was on purpose (it probably was), but there were ridiculous mistakes in the verb forms the faun used. I don't know enough Spanish to be able to tell whether the original words were also slightly misused archaic forms as the Finnish ones were (you know, of the type "olkootte" instead of "olkaatte" and so on). If they were, and the mistakes in the Finnish version were on purpose, my complains have no base, but until someone can confirm that the Spanish the faun spoke was also a bit off the proper grammar, I'm going to be annoyed. It's not like the old Finnish über-polite verb forms are familiar to most people anymore (they'd probably sound equally odd to almost any Finnish teen, whether they were correct or incorrect), but well, I suppose I'm a nit-picker when it comes to such details.

There. It's already half past midnight, so the last day of the year is well on its way. Since I probably won't be blogging later today, this is where I wish you all a very happy and prosperous year 2007! Let it be a year of wishes coming true for all of us.

See you in 2007, folks. :)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Bits and pieces of my mind - plus penguins!

I have done myself a huge service. I've scheduled most of my classes this week so that the senior high students have papers to independently do research for (my history class) and little presentations to give (my Finnish classes). Ergo, I find myself blogging on a Monday evening at 6.30 p.m. with all work for tomorrow done. Yay me.

It didn't rain today. I don't think it rained yesterday either. In fact, we've had a few drier days and the temperatures have been falling. There was even a few speckles of snow on the ground this morning. There's still a faint possibility of a white Christmas! Yay winter weather.

On Friday evening I was very tired, and wanted to watch something light and cute for entertainment. What I got from the movie rental place was a French movie called La Marche de l'Empereur or March of the Penguins. It's a nature documentary / family film, which tells the story of the Emperor penguins as they literally march (mostly in single file!) miles to a traditional breeding ground to bring their young ones into the world in the middle of the harshest Antarctic winter.

I found the movie simply stunning. I hadn't known this about the behaviour of the penguins before. They march by the thousands to a particular place, long away from the open waters of the ocean, to find a partner and mate. Finding a partner involves complicate "dancing" and "singing" - and when a partner is found, the pair is monogamous. The female lays one egg and leaves it to the male to guard - for two months without food! While the male penguins keep the eggs warm and protected on top of their feet, the females march back to the sea to feed. In two months time the females, once again, march back to the waiting male and hatching egg. The penguin parents change roles again and the males return to the sea. The females now take care of the little fluffy chicks until they are strong enough to, you guessed it, march to the sea.

May I just say at this point that there is hardly anything cuter than a fluffy emperor penguin chick. The adult penguings are adorable, but the chicks, OMG. I guarantee you that unless you are made of stone and have a heart of ice, you'll go "awww" when you see the little critters fluttering about. My heart was full of warm fuzzy feelings, when the baby penguins explored their world and just plain owned me with their cuteness. I mean, they're round and obviously soft and cuddly, naturally wobbly and when they fall over in the snow to bump on their little penguin bums, I doubt if I could've uttered a sensible word. It was all "awww" for me.

In other words, I warmly recommend the movie for everyone. It's a great family movie, obviously a great movie to watch alone - and honestly, penguins are teh cute. QED. :)

Yay penguins!

Ah, maybe I've now made my point about penguins. :) Time to move on to something completely different...

Often around these last few weeks / days of the year people like to look back on the past year and evaluate it according to whatever criteria they deem appropriate. I decided I'd just list a few "Bests of 2006". I'll add to the list later, as things come to mind.

Best bought CD
Sting's Songs from the Labyrinth. An amazing collection of John Dowland's songs from the 16th century, beautifully interpreted by Sting and Edin Karamazov. If you like historical music, you'll love this. At least I did. I admire Sting for this bold decision to record songs that certainly aren't material for the top10 pop charts.

Best book read
Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl and C.S. Forester's Hornblower novels (Hornblower and the Atropos & Hornblower and the Happy Return) share the top spot for historical fiction, I think. For fantasy, umm, well, Patricia McKillip's Ombria in Shadow was a pleasant enough surprise.

Best new addiction
The Fables, graphic novels by Bill Willingham. Instant love. Quite a few issues missing from my collection yet, but I'm adamant in getting them all into my bookshelf. They'll have a nice place next to my Sandman collection. My meagre collection of graphic novels.

Best purchase
Laptop! Digital camera (bought on Saturday, btw)! But laptop is definitely The One.

Best movie seen
Probably V for Vendetta and Kingdom of Heaven DC.

Best tv-show
Dr. Who takes the top spot here. I have enjoyed also shows like House M.D., Bones, Battlestar Galactica and many more. But Dr. Who offered a refreshing dose of British quirky humour and witty scripting.

Best decision
To start planning on a vacation in Wales next summer! Has kept me going (and saving up money) during the whole rainy, dark autumn.

Well, better think about some more bests and post them later.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Dear deities of the weather

Please make it stop raining! I'm so sick and tired of constant rain and I want snow! Pretty puh-leese?

Yes, the Northern winter wonderland of Finland is experiencing the warmest December in some 200 years... This is bordering ridiculous. If anyone, I repeat anyone, comes and tells me there are no signs of global warming, I'm going to make them crosscountry ski in this weather! Darnit.

If it only wouldn't rain so much. I wouldn't mind not having really cold temperatures, but the rain is driving me nuts. There was a short two-day period in the first days of November, when the scenery looked like this:

The view from my balcony in the beginning of November.

But alas, the snow melted away and ever since the ecosystem has thought it necessary to keep flooding the country with water. Meh. There aren't many things that make you more depressed than waking up to rain and darkness seven days a week. Snow would have the delightful effect of bringing more light to the gloomy Finnish winter even when the sun doesn't shine that many hours a day anyway.

Besides, it doesn't feel like Christmas is coming at all. I'm more than ready for a vacation, but the feeling isn't here. Another meh. I'm afraid there's just no hope for a white Christmas this year, with temperatures closer to +10 C almost on daily basis.

I just hope this doesn't mean spring will come in June next year... Or that February will boast with four weeks of temperatures around -30 C...

I think I'd better go and write my Christmas cards and listen to the raindrops fall.