All You Need: Finnish Literature, Sweet Food, a Restaurenat Guide and More Blogs  
Monday, 24 .April, 2006, 21:02 - English Entries, Finland, Literature, Online/Blogs

Today in a post at lewism, the blog about Architecture, Design, and Life in Finland, you can find a link to a reading list on Finnish Literature, that was compiled by the Guardian Unlimited. I am shocked, as I have not read one of the books out of the list. Once I started reading the Kalevala, but that was not a serious attempt. Shame on me! At least now I know what to do during the long summer evenings.

Cover - Books from Finland At the end of the article is a link to "Books from Finland", a quarterly journal written in English. It includes translated extracts from new Finnish books and general information about (modern) Finish Literature. I already bought some copies of this journal at Stockman and now finally subscribed to it – it is worth the 20 Euros per year (in Finland & Scandinavia – else it's 27 Euros) and they give you even a free copy for just subscribing. Thank you.

If you you are not only hungry for written words, but also for food, then I have two more good links for you. Look at the blog of "Axis of Ævil", for example at the posting from March 10th 2006. The blog is written by an American married to a Finn and living in Finland. It includes great recipes (for deserts) , decorated with pictures, that make me think whether I should not better learn to cook rather than to speak Finish. And besides this the blog offers a lot more information (not only about Finland) as well as beautiful photographs.

In cases like mine, where the inability to cook forces one to go to restaurants, the site "" is of tremendous help. It really shows all restaurants and bars in Helsinki on a map that can be zoomed. Different colours indicate whether the place is currently open and every location has a link attached to it. Incredible! Thanks to arabella, who posted this link in the Flickr Helsinki group and also blogs in Helsinki.

And last but for sure not least I recommend to read "kirsty's grapes of wrath". Kirsty has an excellent taste in music and just started with blogging her adventures in UK, which seem to become a very entertaining read. Besides this she finds time to read my stuff here – what's of course an indication for a good and strong character.

» Finnish Reading List
» Books from Finland
» Interactive Helsinki Restaurant Guide

» lewism
» Axis of Ævil
» Anabelle
» kirsty's grapes of wrath

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Spring arrived in Helsinki 
Sunday, 23 .April, 2006, 19:39 - English Entries, Helsinki, Photographs
Reflecting buildings in melted ice

On Friday I flew back from Bavaria (Germany) to Helsinki. That afternoon a colleague and I hang out for an hour in Greding, a city South of Nuremberg. The temperatures were at 23 degrees Celsius and I got afraid of returning to Finland and having to put on several layers of clothes again.

Seagulls at Hietaniemi Beach, Helsinki

Pah! There was no disappointment after the return – the sun was out most of Saturday and all this Sunday long. Everywhere people were roaming around, some of the runners and cyclists even left their jackets at home. The temperature went up to 11 degrees Celsius and the ice is melting, giving us back the sea.

Fisherman at Hietaniemi beach

For the first time I was at the graveyard in Hietaniemi, a wonderful place for walking. One of the statues on a grave impressed me – a naked woman reading in a book. Beautiful and daring.

Statue on a grave

» See more pictures of April in Helsinki
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Toctronic: Pure Reason Must Never Prevail (Pure Vernunft darf niemals siegen)  
Saturday, 22 .April, 2006, 19:54 - English Entries, Music

Tocotronic - Picture taken from Wikipedia Sometimes it is not easy to be 35 years old and still be blindly fascinated by rock music, unable to criticize it and even forgiving the most stupid songs by saying that they are down-to-earth and beautiful in their simplicity. Under the influence of rolling drums and roaring electric guitars the lack of poetry and content becomes sometimes irrelevant.

But then again, it is not that bad at all and during the last years even some German bands found ways to combine music and message to popular songs. One of these groups is "Tocotronic", who's around already since 1993. The first song I heard from them was "Die Welt kann mich nicht mehr verstehn" (The world cannot understand me anymore), a plain punk-rock song. Some of their songs bombastic and loud, others are of a meditative slowness. Their songs have titles like "The idea is good, but the world isn't read yet", "I want to be part of a youth movement" and "I wish I would be interested in Tennis" and most of their lyrics are suggestive, not to say surreal.

Their latest album was released in 2005 and is entitled "Pure Vernunft darf niemals siegen" (Pure reason must never prevail). The title song of this album is masterpiece, it sounds like a credo, is full of metaphors and nonetheless every line is a statement which can be unambiguously understood. I love this song, it makes me feel like in the very early 80s, when I switched my radio to the only rock channel that existed at that time and after five minutes knew that some noisy boys and girls had understood me better than I have had myself up till then.

So I sat down and translated the text – the translation is not perfect and you can blame me for every incorrectness. Read it, listen to the song, watch the video. Enjoy!

Pure reason must never prevail

Pure reason must never prevail
We urgently need new lies
Which guide us through the universe,
And which prepare us the feast of the world ,
Which enforce the delirium
And which sing us into sweet slumber,
Which warn us of blunt truth,
And which have mercy with deep pain,
Which rock us in bamboo-cradles
Pure reason must never prevail

La la la la la

Pure reason must never prevail
We urgently need new lies
Which show us the treasure of lunacy
And afterwards bow before us
Which crown us to kings
Just to secretly mock us
Which sizzle in our ears
And wish over our eyes
Which make war against those who want to help us
Pure reason must never prevail

La la la la la

Pure reason must never prevail
We urgently need new lies
Which preserve our beauty for us
But which divide us deep within ourselves
In fact which fragment us
And afterwards gently touch us
And guide us into the dark
And obey to our will
And bend us like soft fences
Pure reason must never prevail

La la la la la

We are so light that we fly
We are so light that we fly
We are so light that we fly
We are so light that we fly

» German text of this song
» Video of this song

» Tocotronic Homepage (in German)
» Tocotronic in English Wikipedia
» Tocotronic in German Wikipedia

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Steve Pavlina: Are your friends an elevator or a cage? 
Wednesday, 19 .April, 2006, 13:16 - English Entries, Online/Blogs, Self-Improvement

As said before I started a new category on "Self-Improvement". Besides other things I want to discuss blog entries from people who write on issues of personal development.

I start with an article posted at Steve Pavlina's website. The site is subtitled "Personal Development for Smart People" and is a treasure chest for people who want to work on their self development. Steve has a very good style of writing and his lines of thought are always expressed clearly, so that it is easy and even entertaining to follow.

In his article "Are your friends an elevator or a cage", Steve highlights, that at certain times in our lives we change our friends. This is of course true, I lost contact to a lot of people in Germany since I moved to Finland and only with a few very good friends there I am still in touch. On the other hand I found new friends in Finland. Steve emphasizes that the process of changing friends is something that happens naturally to more or less everybody in modern society.

Having said this he goes the next step and asks, why we could not trigger the changing of friends all by ourselves and not just wait for time and fate to do it for us. One might ask why we should actively change my friends and Steve gives his justification for that: you most likely have one or more friends, that hold you back, that do not elevate you - whilst others do. You should ask yourself with every friend that you have, if you want to be like her or him in your future. If you do not want to be, then this friend can be understood as a cage.

Steve makes it perfectly clear, that consciously ending a friendship which you regard as not helpful for your life is not "getting rid of people", as "people are always drifting in and out of each others' lives".

You may still doubt this, as I did. It sounds not nice to get rid of people that you shared several nights with in bars and just because you think that one beer less a day would elevate you, you have to tell to your mate "I am not prepared to be caged by you any longer". Isn't that unfair? Isn't that sad?

Not if you use the right definitions for certain terms. Steve himself has very high values, which he expresses on his website, and he cannot just leave aside an old friend like that, he first has to flip through his book of personal rules, in order to find out if he would not break one of them by dismissing that person out of his life. So in his article he asks "What about loyalty?" and his answer to this question is so clear that I have to quote it here as well:

Loyalty is one of my personal values. But my value of loyalty means being loyal to my vision of my highest and best self and to my core values.

It seems perfectly right to me that everybody defines their values on their own. It just surprises me that in the context of friendship and loyalty, the reference is not made to the other person, but to ones "highest and best self". Loyalty in my understanding is towards other people, who might have weaknesses and make mistakes, but they are my friends and therefore I am with them, even if they fail. Steve's definition of loyalty is related to a better "me", a person into whom I should develop. It is directed towards an idea, a hope which is about oneself.

The article on how to choose the right friends is much longer and I will not go into further details about it. I encourage you all to read it and get your own impression of it. I also suggest you to have a look at Steve's website in general, because by reading only this article one might think that Steve's thoughts are too far off, so they might not have an audience. That is not true. His site seems to be very well visited, it comes up in all sorts of search engines with a high rating and people frequently post comments to his articles, giving him thanks for what he writes.

Steve starts with a very agreeable fact (during the time of your life, you will change your friends) and proposes that this fact could be consciously used by humans in order to improve their lives. That is a valid thought, but instead of stopping after two steps and saying "oh no, that was wrong, when I do this I might do more wrong than good", he just goes on convincing himself and his readers.

The reader nods during the first paragraph, is willing to become a better person and therefore also nods through the second paragraph and after that he cannot really disagree with Steve anymore, because it all sounds logical and even helpful.

But friendship is not about logic and self-improvement, nor is it about cages and elevators. It is for sure also not a spiritual thing, means: I definitely do not want to install friendship as an untouchable value itself, simply because I do not believe in universal values. Friendship is just a plain simple thing that is defined by common actions and experiences: talking about the things in your life, having a holiday together, wasting time, getting drunk and sober together, hunting the other gender. My friends do not need to pay off. Some of my best friends I had and have are friends that I maybe have to care more for than they do for me - that's not a problem, I do not ask for total compensation.

I also do not view friendship as some sort of hierarchy. If I would think of all my friends only as valuable or elevators, I would see myself at the ground floor, waiting for them to come down and open the doors for me, after they have transported more important people between the higher layers of this pseudo-spiritual building. I would feel as their cage. It all would add to my latent inferiority complex and most likely I would end up somewhere under a bridge after some time with all these elevators. This does not mean that I need "weaker" friends to feel a bit superior in my life; it just means that the whole elevator thing simply doesn’t apply to people that I like or love.

So what does Steve see differently here than I do? He judges his friends by his own values (as he wrote when talking about loyalty) and one of his values is already included in the subtitle of his website: "Personal Development". That is the road he sees as desirable to walk down and whatever guy is on the way, asking for wasting a night on the town, will be classified as a cage and removed in a friendly but perfectly clear way.

To my understanding – and I might be very wrong here, – this way of thinking can be summarized in a single sentence: If you are not profitable for me, get out of my life. If it's that what one calls "smart" or intelligent, I will give back my brain at the next occasion.

But I do not want to be too ironic about this. I disagreed with Steve's "Are your friends an elevator or a cage" already during reading it and that made me think about my own ideas about friendship. In his terminology Steve might say, that he triggered more consciousness within me. That is right and I am grateful for that, but it does not change me disagreeing with him.

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An Easter Trip to Hanko 
Monday, 17 .April, 2006, 12:01 - English Entries, Finland, Photographs, Travel
Wooden House in Hanko, Finland

On Friday evening Sari and I took a train to Hanko, where friends have a flat which we were allowed to use over the Easter days. When I said that I would go to Hanko during that time, most of the Finns that I talked to were asking "What do you want there?" and predicted that we will only see ice and snow. I was not too afraid of that, knowing that Finish people usually exaggerate when they talk about the disadvantages of their beautiful country.

Wooden House in Hanko, Finland Emigration Monument, Hanko (Finland)

In December 2002 I brought my car to Finland (that is part of a longer story, that I will tell at another time) and arrived one night with the ferry from Rostock to Hanko. That time it was snowing and I just took the road to Helsinki, without seeing anything. In 2004 I came back, but only for a two hour visit and also did not see much of the Southernmost Finish city.

Wooden House in Hanko, Finland Wooden House in Hanko, Finland

What I missed all this time is the Western part of the Beach and town, where one can find many beautiful wooden houses, which all have different colours that brighten up any grey the Winter might hold. Many of these houses were built around 1890, when Hanko started serving as a place for recreation, mostly for Russian nobles. Finland at that time was a Grand Duchy under Russia.

Wooden House in Hanko, Finland Wooden House in Hanko, Finland

The Hanko water tower looms high over the city. It is very different from other water towers in Finland and serves the city as a landmark.

Hanko Watertower Hanko Watertower

Also the Germans left their &ndash as usual belligerent &ndash footprints in Hanko, when Imperial German troops landed in 1918 to support the so-called Finish "white" guards against the Finish socialist and communist "red" guards during the Finish civil-war.

Monument of Liberty, Hanko (Finland) Monument of Liberty, Hanko (Finland)

Walking along the beach in Hanko is a special experience during spring time. The sun was shining, the sand on the beach looked inviting and the sea was still frozen. We walked to the "House of Four Winds", which is opend as a cafe in during warmer days.

Tree at Hanko Beach during Springtime The house of four winds

Although the city center is not as outspoken as the villa-area it is worth a visit, as a small muesum with art of local artist Carl-Gustaf Lilius is located there.

Art by Carl-Gustaf Lilius Art by Carl-Gustaf Lilius

We found Origo, a restaurant in a red wooden house at the harbor. Most of the restaurants are closed during this time of the year, but Origo just had opened on Wednesday for the upcoming summer season. The atmosphere in the restaurant is very special. The low wooden ceiling is held by a wooden structure and the side walls of the building are made of stones, on which candles are placed, from which wax drops down in beautiful shapes. The food is exceptionally good and should be accompanied by a bottle of wine, to make the evening a complete experience.

Restaurant Origo, Hanko (Finland) Candles in Restaurant Origo, Hanko (Finland)

It is obvious that Hanko must be very beautiful during summer time, when the sunlight emphasizes the colors of the houses and nature. But that does not mean that the town would not be attractive in winter and spring as well. During our visit we met very few people on the streets or the beach, most of the time we walked by ourselves and sometimes even were able to catch some sun. All was quiet and relaxing &nadash; a very beautiful Easter vacation.

Spring Sun in Hanko What's coming throught the mist?

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