Stanislaw Lem died today 
Tuesday, 28 .March, 2006, 15:33 - English Entries, Literature, Movies

I just read in a German news service, that the Polish author Stanislaw Lem died today.

Lem wrote books of which most are accounted as Science Fiction novels, many of them comedies. But saying Science Fiction makes pictures of Star Wars and Battelstar Galactica come to your mind - that is definitly not Lems realm. For him Science Fiction was a medium to transport his own thoughts about mankind, society, science and technology. Many of his books are funny, but always intelligent and full of irony about humans. Besides novels he also wrote non-fictional books, of which are at least some very easy to read and interesting.

He maybe is best known for his novel "Solaris", which made it twice into movies, once filmed by a Russian (Andrei Tarkovsky) and once by an American (Steven Soderbergh) director. Both films are good and worth seeing, but I say the Russion version is an exceptional piece of art.

"Golem XIV" (it is a shame that this book is out of print in English language, I only found it available in German) was the most fascinating book I read from him and is since then one of my all-time favourites. It is the story of an artificial intelligence that gives lectures to humans. He deconstructs mankind and all its weaknesses in a friendly way. This book is full of deep, new thoughts, Lems intellect is dripping from every page and it is an adventure to read it.

Stanislaw Lem was one of the few authors who was not afraid to write about complex issues and he always did it in an entertaining and readable way. I can only recommend to read his books and to let his thoughts impress you.

P.S. Finish subTV shows today (Wednesday, 29th March 2006) at 20.00 Soderberghs Solaris movie with George Clooney.


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A walk around the block 
Saturday, 25 .March, 2006, 18:22 - English Entries, Helsinki, Finland, Photographs

I walked around in the local area for about two and a half hours. We had some fresh snow during the last days and now the sun was shining warm and the sea, that sourrounds Helsinki from three sides, was still frozen. I had no real aim in my mind when I started. So I first walked by the Sibelius monument, which is a five minutes walk from my home. Lots of tourists were there and I took some of the three million pictures that were taken there today.

Sibelius Monument - Helsinki, Finland  (3) Sibelius Monument from below - Helsinki, Finland  (4)
Sibelius Monument from below - Helsinki, Finland (1) Sibelius Monument from below - Helsinki, Finland  (3)

Further to the Western bay, where saw the blue pylons that hold the electrictiy wires which run between Lautasaari and Seurasaari. During the summer I often sat in the Meeritalli bar and watched the sun going slowly down during the very late hours of the day. The pylons are beautiful during that time, but also now, surrounded by ice and snow, they look tall and mighty, but at the same time - thanks to their color - light and graceful. I went to one of them and the sunlight was just right to make some picutres of it.

The blue Pylon - Helsinki, Finland (2) The blue Pylon - Helsinki, Finland (3) The blue Pylon - Helsinki, Finland (4) The blue Pylon - Helsinki, Finland (5)

Sometime later I came to Töölönlahti, one of the most beautiful bays in the whole city. Finlandia Hall is built next to it. Also this building has it's mystery and ambiguity. The closer I get to it, the more normal it looks, but the further I get away from it, the more it seems big, like a monument that attracts all eyes only to it.

Finlandia Hall, Helsinki, Finland (2) Finlandia Hall, Helsinki, Finland (4)
Finlandia Hall, Helsinki, Finland (1) Finlandia Hall, Helsinki, Finland (7)

The frozen bay was full of people, having one of the last winter afternoons out, absorbing the sun deep into their skins. It is becoming spring. On days like this, one might even regret this fact.

Töölön Lahti, Helsinki, Finland (1) Töölön Lahti, Helsinki, Finland (3)
Töölön Lahti, Helsinki, Finland (4) Töölön Lahti, Helsinki, Finland (5)

See more pictures of that little trip here. You can also watch them as a slideshow by clicking here.

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Recent Movies 
Tuesday, 21 .March, 2006, 10:33 - English Entries, Movies

A good woman was shown on one of the airplanes I recently sat in. It is unfortunately not in cinemas again, that is truly regrettable.

Helen Hunt and Scarlett Johansson in a film that is based on a play by Oscar Wilde. This is entertainment of a style that is hardly seen nowadays - intelligent, truly funny and all put into beautiful pictures. This movie was convincing even on a small airplane screen. A master piece that was not recognized enough when it came out. (10/10)

Finish TV showed A time to kill again. I watched it because of Kevin Spacey and Donald Sutherland and in the end got disappointed. The two actors are of course great, but Sandra Bullock hops too often through the picture, being dressed temptingly, being smart and being everything else she needs to pretend to be. I dont talk about Matthew McConaughey, he is as slimy as always and they unfortunately gave him the main role in this movie. Ok, I could not avoid talking about him.

It is ok to construct a tight story, but Grisham goes to far here. He needs to transport just another moral lecture and spoils it all. So there is this black guy who murdered the rapers of his daughter and he finally gets free because everybody feels pity for him and (that's Grishams stupid trick) the only other alternative would be the death penalty.

Should we let all murders of criminals roam free? What signal is that? At what point can somebody be set free and which deed is cruel enough to justify a private murder? Ah, nonsense. And then Matthew in the end in front of the jury, all in tears about the pathetic story he thought up last night. Spacey is the only one who makes an impression on this movie - so please watch American Beauty or The Usual Suspects again and see him in a good movie. (4/10)

Finally I saw Capote two days ago in cinema. I was sceptical about this movie - there was too much fuss made about it during the last weeks. And again I was wrong. Seymour Hoffmans acting is perfect, not one movement that would indicating that he is not a total eccentric gay. The pictures taken in Kansas need the whole screen and sink deep into ones perception - especially the view of the house in which the murder took place is a story on its own.

But the most intriguing thing about the movie is how the story is told. In the beginning it is all laughing and fun. Then something starts to develop, but nothing is said directly. Scene after scene leads further into doubt and every now and then the thought "he cannot be that much a bastard" flickers up. Capote, who seems not to have a doubt with what he is doing, is shown as a person that still can be understood - in a way. The movie is not a lecture about right and wrong. It is easy to criticize Capote, but it is much more interesting to admit, that his actions can be understood to a certain extend. It's an inconsistent feeling that one is left with after the movie and that is most valuable.

Nevertheless the writing at the end of the movie could have been skipped. It is the only thing that hints towards punishment and I doubt that things are that clear and easy to explain. But maybe that was needed to satisfy a certain audience. (9/10)


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Some interesting blogs on Helsinki and Finland 
Monday, 20 .March, 2006, 15:23 - English Entries, Helsinki, Finland, Online/Blogs

I started looking for more blogs on Helsinki and Finland on Technorati and found that, surprise surprise, most of them are written in Finish language. During the last week I found nevertheless some blogs that I enjoyed reading and that all gave me either new information or expressed views that I found interesting. Furthermore all of them are written in very good English and show interesting pictures. So here are my first cross-connections:

"Lewism - About Architecture, Design, and Life in Finland" is a very interesting blog about exactly the things that are mentioned in its title. When living in Finland you will not be able to escape the name Alvar Aalto, who was the most influencial Finish architect in the 20th century. He not only was active in Finland (for example the Finlandia Hall is one of his greatest achievements) - for example in the German city of Essen you can find the Aalto-Theater opera house. Lewism provides information not only on Aalto in a very uncomplicated and interesting way. It is easy to read and every entry provides you something new. For example look at these:

  • about Aaltos Villa Carre
  • about the Estonian art centre KUMU
  • about the Struve Geodetic Arc - this is very interesting, it also lists the finish world heritage sites (guess how many there are before you read the article) and I have to say that I was startled to find out what the Struve Geodetic Arc really is
  • about delirous Helsinki - this is my favourite one. It is written in a very pleasent way.

The Finish Gambit is written by an American student who lives in Helsinki. It is a entertaining one, that talks about everydays life in Helsinki and what is all wonderful and to wonder about the Finns and their country. Besides that there are nice pictures and the whole thing is written in a not too-serious way. Some of the most recent entries include the following:

  • "trust in Finish society" – this describes a phenomenon I also wonder about and I agree, that Finns are very special in this respect. But I also have to say that you can enter subways in Munich without passing any barrier.
  • "todays lesson" is another thing that seems to be specific here - anyhow, I could sing and dance every Sunday, when the supermarkets here are open. This is a thing that will most likely never happen in Germany and brought me on several occasions close to starving.
  • I like this for its picutres and this for its humor and truth.

From the Finish Gambit a link is set to Jukka's Blog, in which you will find besides other things also comments on political issues that going on in Finland. There are also lots of reports and pictures from Jukkas travelling.

  • recently the Finish paper mills announced to unemploy 3000 people. Jukka's comments on this in Disappearing Paper II are very well thought through.
  • I cannot explain what this one is - you have to read it, it's funny and interesting.

That should be enough reading for a day in office - enjoy!


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In Anticipation for the V for Vendetta Movie 
Sunday, 19 .March, 2006, 14:17 - English Entries, Literature, Movies, Comics

One of the few movie highlights of last year was "Sin City", which was based on Frank Millers graphic novel of the same title. It was an extraordinary visual act and director Robert Rodriguez kept the film strictly to the story of the comic books. Calling Sin City an intellectual outburst would be a little bit far fetched, but it is a much more complex and inspiring story that other comic adaptions, such as Spider Man or The Fantastic Four.

Now the Wachowski brothers and James McTeigue, the makers of the Matrix trilogy, take the next step in advertising non-mainstream comics in theater. Their movie "V for Vendetta" is based on the comic book written by Alan Moore and drawn by David Lloyd in the late 1980s.

The background, to which the story is set, is the United Kingdom which is ruled by a fascist regime, that controls everything and everybody. The only person going against the oppressors is a masked vigilante who calles himself simply "V".

It sounds like just another superhero and of course V is not a normal person, but he is neither Clark Kent nor Peter Parker. V is an intellectual anarchist, one who cites More and Crowley before destroying goverment buildings, one who has a long conversation with justice before blowing up her statue, one who knows mercy and can kill at the same time.

Lloyds drawings give insight into a hopeless and suppressed society, in which the only light seems to be the white, grinning mask of V, whose depcition goes beyond that of a hero. He becomes a mystical figure or even more: a concept – that of individual freedom and anarchy –, that took on flesh and blood (or paper and ink) to break the chains in which it was layed. V is a gathering of citations that went into action and even if you do not have the key to all his quotes, his intentions are shining bright from his smile.

In V, pain is not something that is shown in pictures of blood and dead bodys, it pours out of every page, showing the deep misery the people are in and is finally not abandoned but turned around. It becomes the memory and foundation of a new society, that has to find its way into the future on its own.

Moore took Guy Fawkes as a role model for V. Fawkes was one of the catholics who got convicted and killed on the 5th of November 1606 for his participation in the so-called gun powder plot, an attempt to assasinate the English king, who was not willing to give equal rights to catholics. Moore seemingly got inspired by Fawkes, as he was willing to take extreme measures to get his individual right and he reminds of him by making V's first major attack against the goverment to the 5th of November.

It was in the 1980s, when people like Miller and Moore steered the comic book business into direction of a darker and complex realm. Millers stories are driven by action and effects, that transport a feeling of desperation and the knowledge that the world is a cruel place and it will never change, but it is worth to go against it. What's for Miller the fist of Marv (in "Sin City") or the lance of King Leonidas (in "300") is in Moores universe a citation or a gesture, a joke, that turns into the explosion of the parliament building. His action is founded in a system of thought that does not hesitate to commit a crime, without taking itself too seriously. Moore and V are smiling inside all the misery and tragedy.

The trailers of the V movie look promising, it seems that the makers stayed true to the story and pictures of the comic book. It is over 12 years ago that I read the German version of Moores graphic novel and since then it stayed the best comic book I ever read. I am impatient to see this movie. I hope the movie shows what Moore did to comics and that we all will enjoy it.

Whilst writing this, I found a some material on V and Moore on the web that is worth looking at:


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