Der Palast der Republik 
Friday, 26 .May, 2006, 10:28 - English Entries, Germany, History, Online/Blogs, Politics

Der Palast der Republik, Berlin, Germany Lewis wrote a very good article on German architecture, that I recommend you to read. One of the buildings mentioned there is "Der Palast der Republik", which is currently being demolished. The building is located in the Eastern part of Berlin and the so-called Parliament (Volkskammer) of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR or in German: DDR) had its seat there.

It is with no doubt good that the GDR does not exist anymore and that Germany is re-united. But the decision to tear down the Palast der Republic, which was taken by the German Parliament (Deutscher Bundestag), is just a shame. It might be that the building seems ugly to some - we have more ugly buildings in Germany than one can count, so that is not an argument. The major reason is, that this building represents a part of German history, that most Germans are not proud of and some people also don't want to be reminded of it. With this reasoning it is still a violent act to destroy the building - it is the pride of the winning side in a cold-war between two ideologies.

» English Wikipedia: Der Palast der Republik
» Take a stroll through the palace online
» Ideology, Football, and Architecture - posting on German architecture at lewism.org
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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 "eat.fi" 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.

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

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

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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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My Easter Present to You: Sex and Drugs and Rock'n'Roll 
Thursday, 13 .April, 2006, 18:36 - English Entries, Movies, Music, Online/Blogs

Most of you know this video (which I found here) anyhow already – it is my Easter present to my readers. The song was written by Burt Bacharach, who wrote many lovely songs and is sung here by the White Stripes, a band that fascinates me since I heared them for the first time. The video was directed by Sofia Coppola, who directed The Virigin Suicides and Lost in Translation - two beautiful movies. The girl dancing is Kate Moss, I hope you know enough good things about her, so that I do not have to introduce her.

I wish you all happy Easter, in which ever you are going to spend it. I am off to Hanko.
Cheers! Georg

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Some interesting blogs on Helsinki and Finland 
Monday, 20 .March, 2006, 14:23 - 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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