cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (thattaway)
For my birthday I requested an English translation of a lavishly-illustrated children's retelling of the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic which influenced Tolkien in the writing of LOTR. The book is beautiful! And hardbound and coffee table sized, but as long as you have the leisure to sit still in one place for long enough to read it that's okay.

I had bought an academic's modern literary translation a few years ago, but I just couldn't get through it. The translation doesn't seem to work. It's frequently the case with everything from advertising slogans and aphorisms to simple ordinary sentences that things sound cooler in Finnish - it's like it was designed for wordplay, and wordplays never translate well. (My Finnish is not up to tackling it in Finnish yet, however. I need a few more years' vocabulary at least, I think.) Anyway, the translator kept very close to the meaning of the text, and he labored mightily to render it in the same sort of register and to give it some meter, which I can see he did quite a good job of. But it doesn't change the fact that the Finnish is smooth and flowing, sharp and sprightly and light, and the English is clumsy, clunky, flat, and oafish in comparison. (I don't say that English has to be clumsy and clunky, just that that translation is.)

Anyway, I was able to see in a quick glance-through at the bookshop that this prose retelling is much more readable. The writer, Kirsti Mäkinen, did an excellent job, and the translator, Kaarina Brooks, was obviously very skillful as well; although, like every other English translation I've picked up that was published in Finland, this one didn't come out error-free. At least there were no line-editing errors, but there were definitely a couple of semantic problems (of the 'I see what you mean but that word doesn't exactly mean that in English, and if you're going to be Humpty-Dumptying it up you need to go enough over the top to make it clear that it was on purpose' type) which I would have gotten into it with her for, had I been employed at her publishers in an editorial capacity.

I entertained my wife and her Finnish friends on Twitter over the several days when I was reading bits of it. Living in Finland and being acquainted with artworks and everything-names (buildings, streets, cities, icecreams, people, construction equipment) named after the Kalevala, I sort of felt that I knew most of the main people already. Reading the actual stories was a bit shocking, then. It wasn't quite what I expected! Seeing the echoes of Gandalf in Väinämöinen and Aragorn in Ilmarinen is rendered surreal by the fact that Tolkien worked hard to render his characters with a dignity and solemnity that makes the Kalevala look like a comedy in comparison. The folk legends of the Kalevala don't have comic relief characters; everybody is made to look ridiculous in turn, and sometimes simultaneously with their moments of greatest coolness. And also there's the fact that almost everybody in it is an asshole1, but especially Joukahainen and Lemminkainen. The two of them could give lessons in How to be a Turd to Prince Joffrey. I kept looking up to shout "X is a COMPLETE DICK!"

The Kalevala almost reminds me more of a collection of individual folktales than of the Odyssey or the Edda. (Which isn't a complaint: I like both forms.) Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that it was collected/compiled/written so much more recently.

One of the things I noticed most keenly while reading was how extremely clumsily Christianity had been pastede on yey. I mean, the original basic stuff of the Kalevala is obviously an actual pantheic mythology. It literally starts with the creation of the world, including plants, animals, and people, and explicit reference is made to many different gods who are actually referred to as gods. But then every now and then, usually after the resolution (by god or magic) of some problem, somebody has just tacked on a couple of sentences that are like "but of course, while this was awesome, it wasn't NEARLY as awesome as the magic that the supreme creator God could've done. If he was there," or, "After all these several pages of spells calling on tons of different nature dieties by name, still nothing worked, and Väinämöinen was like 'Oh shit, no magic is even possible without God, even though earlier in this epic tale it was! God, I've gotta give you props, now would you please help a man out', so God fixed him up." Also there's a thinly-veiled Jesus allegory tacked on as the last chapter of the whole thing, with a weirdish explanation about how a holy infant is even more powerful than Väinämöinen and has thus rendered him obsolete, which is why he fucks off in a magical copper boat.

Another thing that made it a little surreal was having first read Finnish celebrity historian Matti Klinge's seminal Ancient Powers of the Baltic Sea a year or so ago. I kept trying to think back to it and wondering about the historical context without really remembering the details. (That book kept me on the edge of my seat. Maybe I should just get my own copy.)

And unrelatedly to any of my other reactions, there's a myth about Väinämöinen's descent to the Underworld, where he goes to demand the secret creation runes of the oak tree from Tuoni, the god of death, because he has a whim to go sailing but is too lazy to build a boat the old-fashioned way, and wants to sing it into being but lacks only three magic words. The mistress of the Underworld captures and nearly kills him, but he escapes by turning himself into a snake, and instead goes to the millenia-old gravesite of the world's greatest giant-wizard of yore, and annoys him into waking up and disgorging the words in question. (Shades of Odin and his giant head in the basement, right?) It's definitely the most absolutely charming descent myth I've ever read. My second favorite episode is the one where he kills the leviathan and makes an enchanted lute from its jawbone, a musical instrument so powerful as to render him practically omnipotent. But then he drops it into the ocean, the end. XD

1. EXCEPTIONS: a) Ilmatar the sky goddess who appears only to give birth to Väinämöinen; b) Aino the maiden who gets sold into slavery by her asshole brother Joukahainen to save his own hide, then raped, then drowns herself; c) Lemminkäinen's mother, who doesn't merit a name; d) Ilmarinen the heavenly smith, who eventually wins the heart and hand of the maiden he courted, but then gets his heart broken when she's murdered shortly thereafter, and who then tries to build a robot wife (it doesn't work); e) Ilmarinen's sister Annikki, who in this edition appears just once, in the introduction to the story of his courtship, but who gets some really great lines.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (jewish)
I only learned about the existence of the electric hanukkia or hanukka menorah from The Social Network fanfiction.

I since found out that many of them are programed with little computers to make one additional candle light up each night of Hanukka, although the online shops assure me that they aren't intended for anything as irreligious as replacing the traditional hanukkia, but rather as a supplement. (That wasn't true in TSN fanfiction, though, and I suspect it also isn't true for lots of people, for convenience's sake, even if the living flame version is much more pleasant and cosy.)

Since I often don't eat a real meal in the evenings, and hence miss the candle-lighting these days if I don't have anybody over to eat with us, I've been meaning to get hold of an electric hanukkia for a few years, but when I got around to checking out prices online, even the cheapest one was over $30 USD, and it was (a) made for children and hence blue and white, (b) consequently looked like a toy, and (b) unequipped with the little computery thing in any case.

In general the electric candelabrum is a very common winter decoration in the Nordic countries generally independent of holiday/religion for obvs reasons, i.e. the fact that in the wintertime, the sun never comes out at all here. But they're usually equipped with 4 candles for advent, or 7 candles e.g. the symbol of Judaism since the times of Moses, although the white people up here don't generally know anything about that. The state church forces a lot of Bible study down their throats in elementary school, but apparently not the Old Testament, I guess. All bitterness aside, though, I thought I wouldn't be able to buy a proper 9-branched one because I didn't recall ever spotting one.

But! Then I spotted this one at Anttila! And it was only 17€ so I bought it.

Now I want to paint it before Hanukka. I don't find the white very festive. Obviously there's metallics, but I rather thought I'd like to use a color. I thought about a solid bright color, like lime green or aqua to mimic the colors of table accessories from Indiska like these but I don't like that style as much on simpler shapes. So then I was thinking about painting a gradient like you often find on hannuka candles like these rainbow ones or these:

Obviously blue and white is traditional, but my favorite tablecloth is green and my favorite memories of Hannuka are on my mom's red Indian tablecloth, so I was torn for a week or so.

Then [personal profile] waxjism accidentally fell on ColourMart's dick and bought five colors of merino/silk blend in rusty autumnal colors. These colors sparked my imagination and also reminded me of the broad autumnal stripes I admired last month at Marimekko on some knits:

Maybe a total of three broad stripes, say, plum, russet and a light honey color or sage green or carroty orange.

# painting things

* Hanukka is "Vihkimysjuhla" or "consecration festival" in Finnish and candle holder is "kynttiläjalka" or "candlefoot" - Finnish only has one word, regardless of how many candles are involved or how fancy it is. Hence, this is the translation I used when making a presentation about Hanukka to my Finnish class, although I also explained that in general the Hebrew words are used to talk about Jewish religious paraphernalia regardless of the language around them so probably "hanukkia" or "menorah" is what Finnish Jews would say (but I don't know them personally, and neither does the teacher).
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (jewish)
Since I learned to say "Jewish" in Finnish (several years ago) I've been waiting for an opportunity to try it on door-to-doorers and see how well it works. I think Jehovah's Witnesses are actually supposed to preach to everybody, but there are so few Jews in Finland that in my experience in general Finns seem so flabbergasted by the idea that I was thinking it would probably be effective. And it was!

Once I realized they were Jehovah's Witnesses, that is. My Finnish is not up to actually reading what the pamphlet they handed me said. The lead JH tried to show me their spiel in Russian too! Hahah. It can't be my last name, which is Polish and German, so he probably thought I looked Russian, which is funny to me although [personal profile] waxjism says I do look a little bit Russian. Slavic, I guess, although to me it's more Polish.

But anyway, once he found the English language page I smiled regretfully but brightly and said earnestly, "Thanks, but I'm Jewish."

Then I watched as he and his partner blinked, he took a step back and said "Uh, okay" and I closed the door.

[sparkle] SUCCESS~~! [/sparkle]

(Brother in Law says "Thanks but I worship Satan" is also quite effective, although I've heard that "Thanks but I'm an atheist" doesn't have the same power. Wondering now about Cthulhu and the Spaghetti Monster. Or what do you think happens if Mormons try to convert Jehovah's Witnesses or vice versa???)

(Mmmmh, now I want spaghetti.)

Then I read the Wiki article on JH for the first time and discovered that they actually believe we are in the middle of the apocalypse, and that since October 1917 or something like that the world has been ruled in a global conspiracy by Satan and his demons, who were only kicked out of heaven at that point when Jesus took over. (They also don't believe Jesus is God incarnate, though, just his [sole] offspring.) Basically it sounds a bit like Supernatural since the Advent of Misha Collins. So... now I know that.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (daddy & me)
My parents like to telephone for a long catch-up approximately once per week, and they usually want to talk to me at the same time. As a result, they usually put the phone on speaker.

When I call them using my Finnish provider's long distance, I get a pretty good sound quality. But when they call me using their much more affordable calling card, the sound quality is ... I'd say tolerable. Like, not nearly as clear, but it's fine unless one of us uses speakerphone and then it's a bit of a pain. (This is probably because the calling card is bouncing between VOIPs or something to make itself so cheap, idk. I can't imagine how it could be that bad otherwise.)

They tend to call me with one of their cell phones because they can program in the number sequences instead of having to punch them all in each time like on the house phone, even though the quality of speakerphone on their landline is a lot better.

So they've got a cellphone on mediocre speakerphone, over a calling card of dubious quality, and then eventually when my ears start to hurt I usually give up and put mine on speakerphone too and at that point one sentence in three has to be repeated due to sound quality.

This is still not QUITE as bad a calling experience as the up-to-3-minute lagtimes we used to sometimes get over Skype. But on the other hand, Skype was free, and it's adding insult to injury to have to be paying for a conversation that leaves you with a sore throat and a sore ear and also slightly irritated from having to say 'WHAT?' and 'I didn't hear that entire last sentence' so many times.

Maybe Skype again. Maybe it won't lag that much anymore. Or maybe I can make them get on two different extensions of the landline so they can both talk without using speakerphone.


9 Aug 2012 01:26 pm
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (workout)
Sometime early next month, in the fall, there's this weekly aerobic-fake-Afrocaribbean-dance thing called Zumba that's free and specifically for immigrants. All the students, as far as I spotted when we went to the last class of the year last May (before the teacher went on her summer holiday), are from various Finnish classes at my school.

It was fun because I like to dance and it afforded me an opportunity to bond a bit with classmates I like and the teachers. On the other hand, Zumba is about 40% more aerobics than I like, and I think in order to avoid collapse I will have to make an effort to scale back to a more low-impact workout on the fly.

Honestly, I kinda wish there was an immigrant-ladies-only yoga class at that place because it would probably be more my speed, but I'm still looking forward to it. Besides, I really should probably bounce around significantly more in my life because I really don't have muscles right now and that's inconvenient and indubitably bad for my future health, even if I am at low risk of heart disease. I think hopping and jumping counts as weight-bearing for purposes of reducing the risk of osteoporosis anyway, and I do have a family history of that.

Although I'm really sad to say this, but: country line dancing was significantly more fun than Zumba, for me. I mean if it was just watching hot ladies like our instructor who are awesome at it doing Zumba, then it would be somewhat like seeing a live music video and that would be way better than country line dancing. But for participation, Slappin' Leather in 7th grade P.E. class is definitely beating it. (OTOH in 7th grade PE class, I didn't get to watch middle aged Finnish ladies doing booty-shaking dances, which is comedy gold.)

Also this means that I have to purchase some better clothes to zumba in because I don't have anything but sweatpants, and it's wayyyy too hot for that.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (lady)
This week just past is the second week in a row where I've gotten two envelopes from social security on the same day which turned out to both be printed out from the same printer/computer and From the Desk Of the same caseworker.

There are different rates of unemployment pay depending on whether you are doing work development prescribed by the unemployment bureau (eg my Finnish class) or simply unemployed and getting the standard rate1, sick (I think this is compensated at the standard rate though), or unavailable for work (eg out of the country).

This means that once a month you submit a schedule with a label for each day and naturally, my first month covered the period when I was out of the country for 1 week for my grandma's funeral, so last week one day I got two envelopes containing:

  1. A notice that social security required more information from me because my application was submitted prior to the end of the monthly billing period, so they needed the last two weeks of the month. This letter came with a helpful blank sheet of paper with rules for writing on with the KELA letterhead.

  2. A blank monthly calendar for actually filling in the information on the missing two weeks.

So I threw out the blank paper and the spare prepaid envelope and mailed back the filled-in calendar in the other envelope, as apparently intended.

Then last week, after my application was complete and could be processed, I received two more envelopes, also on the same day!

  1. A "decision" that "from the week X [of my departure from the country for my grandma's funeral] forward" I would not be paid anything, for the reason that I was out of the country and unavailable for work.

  2. A "decision" that "from the week Z [of my returning to the country after my grandmother's funeral] forward" I would be paid regular unemployment because I totes qualified and stuff.

Well, fortunately we engage in paper recycling here in Turku.

1. calculated based on a variety of factors including your residency status, your work history, and your spouse's income
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (o.O)
08:05. I leave for the bus stop.

08:16. I grab the first bus going the proper direction, the 21. The 21 is the same bus that I took Wednesday, but got off when it turned towards Runosmäki instead of Raunistula. I thought it didn't go where I wanted, but I was able to walk the gap in 10 minutes and when I got there found the sign at the appropriate stop said 21, so I concluded the bus was going to make a short loop. I have observed this behavior in other buses before, such as the one which goes to my brother-in-law's house.

08:30. Class starts without me.

08:45. We've passed Moisio, wherever that is, and are headed further into the boonies. Every time we pass a highway sign with an arrow back to Turku I think the bus is going to take it, but it doesn't.

We go through Patis and pass its rural church. We drive through a residential area and pass, in order, Virgin Mary Street, Madonna Road, Domina Road, and couple of saint roads, and then turn onto Midsummer Way and promptly pass a turnoff for Dionysus Street.

At some point two small boys get on the bus and are so excited talking about their Pokémons or something that they can't even sit down. Then a tiny, like, four year old gets on with his daddy. They all go to the same rural school and get off. We pass another rural school.

08:55. The bus driver asks me where I was going. I say "I don't understand Finnish, but... wrong bus."

HER: What? Where are you going?
ME: I was going to Turun AKK in Raunistula. Wrong bus.
HER: There's more than one route and this one doesn't go through Raunistula!
ME: Oh, I see.
HER: You should have asked!
ME: Yeah, I see that now. But you see it says 21 at the bus stop, so I thought bus 21 went there. But anyway, I will have to wait for you to turn around and get off when we get back to the point where the routes diverge; it's fine.
HER: Yes, you can do that, but after I get back I will come here again and that time I will be going to Raunistula - no wait actually I won't.
ME: I can take a different bus from that bus stop.
HER: Yes. But now I have to ask you to get off and wait at the opposite side of the street because I have a 25 minute break between routes.

(At this point she seems to me to be projecting a definite air of miffedness, slightly hunted, but I think it's because she is worried/guilty about kicking me off the bus to wait: she seems to feel badly for me, but I'm trying to project as relaxed and friendly as I can: it isn't her fault, after all, and it's not like I really mind waiting. I'm dressed all right for the weather.)

09:00. This is way more fun than Finnish class would have been. I've been able to listen to Trespassing all the way through on this trip and looked at lots of cute little buildings and I am having an adventure! So I walk across the street. The rural bus stop is this sad little hollow with two plank benches on either short end, and walls made of actual pressed-paper boards full of embedded staples and covered in sad, faded graffiti. The whole thing seems to sag together with embarrassment.

I decide that since I have 25 minutes to kill and my thermos of tea is already empty I should class the place up a bit.

I have nearly finished writing out the entirety of "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll in blue ballpoint on the wall beside me (I'm at "And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?") when a small blonde apple-cheeked farm woman arrives dressed completely in dowdy mumsy printed windsuit, carrying a lot of bags.

I finish the line on autopilot - then freeze - then studiously pretend that I haven't seen her in the other end of the bus stop. When she turns away (I see from the corner of my eye) I risk a quick covert glance and she doesn't seem to be looking at me, but nonetheless I guiltily slip the pen into my bag, trying to look like I'm not doing anything and haven't been committing acts of graffiti. We wait the last 5 minutes in a pregnant silence and I get out the ereader, but I'm lost in a paranoid fantasy that she's calling the police to arrest me when she gets out her cell phone, and that they're going to come cart me away and I'm going to have to defend myself in Finnish ("It's already got graffiti! Poetry raises the tone! It's LEWIS CARROLL") and will perhaps be sentenced to community service, which will be awkward for me because I don't speak Finnish. I try to remember how to say anything about poetry in Finnish, for my hypothetical conversation with the cops.

09:25. The bus arrives again. I wave sheepishly to the bus driver, and she asks me if I still have my ticket. I show it to her even though - dude seriously? Do you not remember our conversation??? Whatever.

09:35. By this point I have to go to the bathroom and am thinking that instead of rushing to the one at school I should stop in the Hesburger next to the bus stop where I will have to change buses to get to school.

09:55. A mother and child have gotten on the bus at some point and the child is sitting directly in front of me, and has spent at least ten minutes taking her hat and scarf off and then putting them back on. I'm thinking hysterical thoughts about how I hate having a bladder. Adam Lambert is my only comfort. I think some more about how much I want a Hulking-out-centric Avengers fanvid to "Pop That Lock" (no seriously it would be SO GOOD let me tell you my thoughts about this sometime).

10:05. I get off the bus and head for Hesburger. It opens at 10:00 on weekdays, and I think I am quite lucky that I've gotten there just after this. I wonder if I will have to buy something in order to use their bathroom. It seems unlikely because they don't get a lot of traffic there, but I could totally buy a tea to refill my thermos. Except the door's locked. No staff are in sight. They haven't opened yet. I walk to the bus stop to wait instead and try not to pop anything, contrary to Adam's advice in my ear (former advice, since by then he has moved on to "Underneath").

10:16. Bus 1 arrives 3 minutes before my 2-hour bus ticket would expire! The driver checks the clock to make sure I am still allowed to ride on it.

10:25. Finally at school and the bathroom, where I spend some time running hot water on my wrist arteries to warm my hands up before I go to class. The teacher has been making photocopies and I run into her right outside the door. She's like "Cim! Hi, where were you?" And I'm like "WRONG BUS!" *armflail* She laughs and is like "I see, where did you go?" "MOISIO and - and - Patis?" Then she laughs even more and is like "Oh, long bus ride." Fuck yeah.

11:15. Class lets out early, taking me completely by surprise because I've forgotten that we have a short day on Friday.

11:30. Home again, home again, jiggety-jig!

cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (why is the beverage gone)
Fun, right?

Here's my related thoughts, but they aren't organized so I don't think they'll make a paragraph.

  • The starring guy, the one who plays Dirk - I can't remember his name but [personal profile] waxjism always can, but she's sleeping - (Stephen Mangan. I looked it up)... I like him already. He was the guest hero in the same episode of Marple with Martine McCutcheon and possibly the only way that an episode already starring Martin McCutcheon and Geraldine McEwan could get any better.

  • Wax found a copy of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency in dead-homophobic-Granny's attic and so I've just reread it - only the second time ever, and the first time was in middle school. Unfortunately it smelled like it'd been in a granny's attic for at least a decade. It wasn't as funny as I remembered, but I still enjoyed it a great deal.

  • Fewer laughs per page than Pratchett or Wodehouse,the two I always compare Adams to the most; it's more a kind of structured underlying absurdity. Still, it's definitely less absurd, and less Pratchett-like, than I remember Hitchhiker's Guide being, but I haven't reread it in almost as long. My dad and mom weren't giant fans and only had two of the five, I think, plus The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.

  • Dirk Gently is described as round and podgy, which couldn't be further from Mangan, but I suppose if you're going to be delivering that type of absurd-humor these days (or investigating things?) it's shaggy hair and cheekbones that are in style. For some reason. Can't imagine why (DrWhoSherlock). Anyway, it's not like I mind, precisely.

Every now and then I rewatch that episode of Marple just to stare at Martine McCutcheon. She's so lovely. Where was I?

Oh right. Other things that aren't remotely related to this new Dirk Gently series:

  • I got into that Finnish course, but all I know about it is that the first class is on May 7th: not how many hours per week or how long it lasts or anything like that.

  • I need to make a doctor's appointment but I'm afraid of calling people to make appointments so I've now put that off for a solid week.

  • Wax is unemployed, which is bad of course kind of, but good in that she got out with an excellent severance package, and she hated her job anyway so if she hadn't been laid off she probably would have cried. I'm very happy, as I was getting sick of watching that place suck the soul out of her. But on the other hand, she's been there a long time so even though she's glad, it's been a big shock and she's greatly discombobulated. So far she's mostly responding by sleeping in the least healthy pattern possible and avoiding anything and everything, which is a functional way to recover from a shock for me too, so I shouldn't worry unless it goes on more than perhaps a week and a half.

  • Unfortunately Wax is the most senior descendant of deadhomophobicGranny who doesn't live outside of Finland, so she is supposed to be responsible for estate-executor things right now, and it's the worst possible time for her to be responsible for anything. My ability to help is severely limited by incomplete knowledge of Finnish and Finnish inheritance laws and practices.

  • [personal profile] copracat posted on Tumblr about this Australian show called Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. It's got a female protagonist and it's set in the 1920s and it's a murder mystery show, so I would like it even if it were horrible and American, but it's not horrible and everyone is Australian and has cute Australian accents. So that's nice. It seems to be based on some books. I wonder if I should check them out.

cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (lol yep)
So, a week ago I went to a Finnish course placement test, and at the time the interviewer for the oral portion (which was quite funny, as my Finnish is almost wholly inadequate to complete sentences in response even when I understand the question, and I also didn't recognize the word "wife" and completely forgot some of the standard question words even though I know them) emphasized quite strongly that I wasn't to travel or do anything because the classes might start as soon as the last week in March. Well, it's the last week in March! And I've just gotten a letter inviting me to a Finnish class... that doesn't start until May.

I could totally have been making appointments with my therapist all along! Also I could have made that doctor's appointment last week!

Actually I'm more disturbed by the prospect of waiting another two months than anything else. I've become extremely anxious for SOMETHING, ANYTHING to happen recently, but if the class really is capable of taking up to three days a week it will probably make it impossible for me to get a job in that interval (although I will be compensated with a higher unemployment allowance because it was arranged by the employment office and counts as job training).

In the long term, though, Finnish is an inescapably essential life skill if I want to stay in the Turku-Åbo area and eventually get a job, and it's going to take a lot of time and work whenever I do it so it should be good to get it over with. If only I didn't have a sort of Job Fever just now (which is kind of funny - that it's just NOW I mean - as I've never had a real job or even a full-time one and I've only worked a total of nine weeks outside the flat since 2004).

So. Cabin Fever. Maybe in addition to knitting, I should take up some kind of volunteer activity. Some kind of volunteer activity that doesn't require being able to form sentences in Finnish...
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (ninja liberation)
As part of an organized attempt to stave off winter depression/ennui and simultaneously gradually accustom myself to being out of the house more, I have resolved to go to the library at least once per week from now on and also to go downtown to the city center to take care of some sort of errand at least once per week.

Ironically the very day after I made this resolution last week I went to the library and was accosted by one of those Creepy Strange Dudes Who Hit on Women in Public Places Using Pathetically Transparent Lines.

Now, generally, providing that I do not get a threatening vibe off of you, I am more apt to be immediately bemused than annoyed by these sorts of encounters - perhaps because they haven't happened to me so very often (probably because I'm usually a total shut-in), perhaps because as someone without great social skills I can sympathize on some level with the awkwardness of a truly pathetic pick-up line, even if it is a level buried under a lot of lesbianism, standoffishness and introversion, and feminist outrage against patriarchical assumptions about male entitlement to women's bodies and attention and time. But this guy still managed to piss me off with his extremely persistent pushiness.

In fact, when he first started talking to me I didn't realize he was one of those guys at all, because he was brown and his Finnish was both halting and accented (although hey, better than mine obviously) and then his English was equally bad - actually worse - so at first I wasn't quite sure that he was able to express what he wanted to express, and I thought he might actually have been trying to ask me a specific question, or just be friendly, or strike up a conversation on a specific subject. But seriously, creepy guys who determinedly hit on women in public libraries, please take some friendly pointers from me:

  • A library is not a good place to pick up chicks if your strategy involves mansplaining and interrogation. You are supposed to be quiet in the library.

  • If someone is wearing headphones and takes one out to talk to you, do not move closer and pull the other one out of their other ear for them. It is both creepily over-familiar (don't touch me, seriously) and presumptuous (I'm an adult and will fucking decide for myself if you merit my full attention).

  • On that subject, someone who is evidently absorbed in a book is not a prime candidate for any sort of conversation, let alone a completely pointless one. It's an even worse sign if they try to continue reading while you are talking to them. If they show every sign of being absorbed in the book you should probably leave them alone. Especially in a public library, where, as mentioned, you can take for granted they have come to obtain or read books.

  • "I haven't seen you here before" is already lame enough without contradicting someone who says they live in your city because "I live here and I haven't seen you". Twice in a row. Also I'm not really sure why your alternate suggestion for where I might live would be "Nousis".

  • I do have a mother. That is because everyone has a mother. Fortunately for me, my mother is alive and well. If you actually were trying to find out if I lived with her: 1. dude that's creepy and 2. if I had been the age you evidently thought I was that would have been even MORE creepy.

  • After someone tells you they are married approximately 10 times in a row is not the time to ask if they have a baby. Whether it was my response of "Ew, no. Definitely no baby. CATS" or the fact that I suddenly flipped back to the book's table of contents, I am glad that you gave up at this point since I shudder to think what the next question on your list was.

Oddly, while this was really annoying, it didn't cause me any particular anxiety or affect my plans to continue visiting town and the library. It did make me reflect gratefully on the fact that Finns culturally are a reserved people and typically dislike smalltalk as much as I do, which has meant a much smaller number of that sort of encounter here than I ever had in America. Of course, not speaking the local lingo does help, if you can shrug politely and escape before the would-be accoster successfully switches gears to English; that has helped me a number of times.

Anyway, on another note entirely, an exciting milestone in my life: for the first time ever my phone got turned off the week before last because I forgot to pay my phone bill! I paid it 8 days late, to be precise, a week ago last Saturday, but it took them until Thursday to turn my phone service back on. It was a bit like time out for grownups, not being able to use my 3G internet when I was out and about. Also surprisingly upsetting knowing that I couldn't call anyone if something happened - emergency services, wife, family, or whatever. The really funny thing is that I get my phone bills in email, so you wouldn't think I could forget to pay them on time. They arrive well in advance of the last due date, too, so what would happen was every time I checked my email I would see it sitting there in my Inbox and think "Oh yeah, I really need to remember to pay that!" and then just continue not paying it, and usually forget again as soon as I walked away. So my tentative new strategy is to open them right away and put the due date and several other reminders in my phone's calendar, with alarms to make sure I don't forget completely.

#creepy guys hitting on people in libraries #fuck the patriarchy #your odds might be slightly better if you picked women who weren't both reading AND wearing headphones
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (batman)
The right amount of warmth for my feet in these temperatures can be achieved only by wrapping a double-layered fleece blanket around my feet and legs with a microwaved rice-filled hotpack inside, then wrapping a second fleece blanket around my feet. The resultant fleece/foot bundle is roughly the size of Perry.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (google)
  • After a year of procrastination, I still haven't gotten our paperwork in order to have our Iowa marriage recognized in Finland. This was actually the whole reason we got married in Iowa - because Finland has registered partnership, but not marriage, and this pisses us off because 1. separate but equal is not equal and 2. they're not equal anyway; it doesn't come with quite all the legal benefits. The point of the whole exercise is that after doing it elsewhere, we get to petition to be legally recognized as married to a Finnish judge of some sort and make our voice heard. Given past precedent, they probably aren't going to recognize it as a marriage (Wax looked at some forums, and Vermont marriages have historical precedent of being declared to be legally only a registered partnership under Finnish law - assholes).

    The main reason for the procrastination, though, is that the process is both expensive and fiddly. You need an Apostille form PAY ATTENTION TO THIS IF YOU ARE AN EXPATRIATE GETTING MARRIED ON A FLYING VISIT BACK TO YOUR NATIVE LAND OKAY THIS IS IMPORTANT! I wish someone had told me this. )

  • Our pet shampoo is malodorous! I've been bathing my dog in it because it's supposed to help with dandruff and dry skin, which he occasionally seems to have a mild case of, but it's really not a pleasant smell. More of a stench. Even though I have taken to putting my own berry-scented conditioner on him afterwards, the smell is penetrating. Any suggestions?

    Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 0

    Do you have any suggestions for what I could wash my dry-skinned dog in that doesn't stink?

  • While vacuuming yesterday I found a lollipop under the couch with a wrapper that says "BON BON BUM junior". Which begs the question: is this lollipop intended for people with bums as delicious as bon bons, or for people who have bums whose size is attributed to bon bon consumption? Or both? We may never know, especially because neither one of us is brave enough to actually eat an under-couch lollipop of unknown provenance, even though it's still in the wrapper.

  • Wax and I have given up our yearning for the now-discontinued Marimekko pink cheetah wall panel and our new ambition is to adorn the area above our couch with panels of each of these, Marimekko "Karkuteillä" in orange and blue:

cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (godlike)
In Finland, where civil partnerships exist but do not convey benefits equivalent to marriage, the question of legalizing gay marriage has been under debate for some little while and is on the agenda of the governing Center-Green coalition. The side debate concerns the state Evangelical Lutheran church of Finland, which currently has an anti-gay marriage stance, and whether such a law would require it to voluntarily relinquish its current right to perform legally binding marriage ceremonies. This tiny article appeared at the bottom of page 4 in today's HBL (Finland-Swedish newspaper):

One in three priests wants to wed gay couples

About one third of priests in the Evangelical Lutheran church in Finland could imagine themselves marrying gay couples, according to a survey done by Radio Dei. Female priests are more positive towards the idea than male priests.

More than half of respondents are unwilling to wed gay couples.

It's interesting because, while that "More than half are willing to stand up and declare themselves for legal inequality and lending themselves personally to suppressing your, yes, YOUR, Cim's, civil rights" - of course that's still upsetting, but given the tenor of debate and the way it is generally posed as a civil vs. religious question, I was definitely surprised that as many as a third of priests are actually for it.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (baroque)
The biggest kiosk in the mall recently converted to selling makeup. It's a kiosk, though, so it's still so small that it's impossible to look at the contents without attracting the attention of the salespeople. In fact, in that particular kiosk's last incarnation as a vendor of spa products made with Israeli sea salt, you couldn't even walk near them without being attacked by people wanting to offer you skincare.

I find it hard to imagine that this works for them, though. I mean, in normal Finnish stores, the salespeople don't accost you and ask if you need any help. The salespeople keep to themselves and let you accost them if you need anything, as a general rule, except in the stores where they hide from you on the salesfloor and abandon the cash register at a run if they sense a customer approaching it. Obviously the last example is a negative, but surely the other ones can't be a coincidence, right? I've always assumed that the reason Finland is the Land that Customer Service Forgot lies in the culture. A standby joke about Finns is that you can tell they're outgoing if they stare at your shoes when you talk. They eschew small talk. They don't smile when they take your order. And their national ideal is a cabin in the woods that's so isolated you won't be disturbed by the sounds of your nearest neighbors (I think there's a song about this). (Or, according to Wax's dad, so that you can wander around naked in your yard without being observed.)

For a couple of years now I've had a hankering for a lime or chartreuse-colored cream nail polish (with absolutely no sparkle), and I saw some at this kiosk, but I can't buy it because approaching a kiosk with products that don't have pricetags and being accosted by a facer with a sales speech is, for me, akin to sticking your entire hand in a hill of fire ants. Meanwhile, the same month it showed up (June), the makeup school and nail salon that I walk past on my way to downtown put up a huge display of nail polishes that includes the desired color, but with no information at all. It's not even clear if you can buy it from them by the bottle or not. Meanwhile, I haven't managed to find the color I wanted in the stores I usually visit or even Cybershop (which came the closest). It's hard even for me to believe that I could require several months just to get around to investigating the makeup on offer at Wiklund, and I'm used to a lifetime of not getting around to things. (I've also been trying to get around to buying a hot glue gun for over a month now. Can you buy those at Clas Ohlson, anyway?)
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (red queen)
Because of my lifelong homebody habits, I have been relatively infrequently to bars, and only four times to clubs.

The fourth time was last night. Let me tell you about it.

At 2 am Wax and I were reading Kradam and Inception badfic respectively when she got a drunk call from a former work mate, Tiny Asshole Mika, insisting she come drink with him. ("How did you know I wouldn't be asleep!" she said. "Must be somebody who knows you I guess," I said. Badum-ching.) After about 10 minutes of importuning, and a brief lecture about how evil Facebook is and why Tiny Asshole Mika should learn about Twitter instead, she gave in because he promised to buy her some cider.

We drank cider under an antique rowboat and a portrait of Tarja Halonen (the president of Finland. She looks like Conan O'Brien), and I said the shape of the cider glasses were very pleasing. Mika tried to get me to steal one but I refused, so he stole one for me. At that point there was no way to graciously decline, so now I have one. Koulu kicked everybody out at 3 o'clock, and we let him drag us to a club called Apollo where he knew the bouncer.

The place was going for a Moulin Rouge effect, with black flocked wallpaper where the flocking was actually made out of this gritty sandpaper stuff and big Rococo mirrors. The upstairs was all red velvet upholstered DJ booth, couches lining the walls, red velvet curtains with gold fringe, and the shittiest eurodance music I've ever heard. It was like some kind of nightmare!

Every song sounded the same as the one before (thanks to the monotonous shitty beats added to all of it, including a horrible remix of Savage Garden's "To the Moon and Back"). There was also an incredible array of Sad, Sad Humanity in wilted mall-rat clothes and weirdly out of place prom dresses and the like, all clustered in a self-conscious blob under the disco balls. I think it's the first time I've really seen that quantity of people dancing like white boys all at once, all anxious head-bobbing and tiny box-steps, with the biggest concession to rhythm generally being elbow movement. ("Look at all the plebes!" "I keep thinking about which community would be right for a comparison, like ONTD, but no, it's on lj, so it can't be plebey enough - it'd have to be some messageboard, right?" "Baby... this club is Facebook.") There were also a lot of incredibly stinky dudes in douchey plaid shirts and one guy in a frock coat. It was too noisy to shout over the music, which was really too bad to dance to in any way. Fortunately we were only there for about 45 minutes, but they were interminable minutes, and it was definitely my least impressive club experience to date.

The other three times were:

  1. When I was 18 I went to a combination hip-hop/country club in the Kansas City area with two cousins. The hip-hop was good and extra entertainment was provided by the country dancers doing polka-like moves even in the hip-hop songs and some young boys practicing break dancing, including spinning on their heads. I was wearing a black one-shouldered top I borrowed from my chavvy cousin, the entire front of which was covered in a tiger's face in silver glitter, and it took 3 days to get the glitter and cigarette smoke out of my hair, which at that time was halfway down my back.

  2. When I was 19 and met [personal profile] waxjism for the first time at the home of [ profile] devon in Ann Arbor, and we went to an underground goth club in Detroit (after an afternoon at thrift stores and K-mart buying black negligees to construct appropriate goth gear out of). At the time I knew nothing about industrial or goth music and was more interested in tourism - the huge graffiti murals, the kink gear, the red pleather gowns, the naked woman wearing only a fox's tail tied to her ass. And also in groping [personal profile] waxjism of course. This was the day we later counted as our anniversary, up until we actually got married. But in retrospect, this was the most comfortable (not really MY peeps, but at least it's a subculture) and danceable club experience (definitely the best music).

  3. A few years ago Wax's friend V called us on New Year's Eve and convinced us to meet him and his flatmate to see the fireworks and then we spent the wee hours near the dance floor of a club, drinking underwhelming margaritas and listening to said flatmate mansplaining. The music wasn't loud enough to be memorably objectionable at all, so it's ahead of last night right there.

I guess I figured that because heavy metal and hard rock in general are mainstream in Finland, and played on pop and top 40 stations, that the club music would be more rock. But I failed to consider that eurodance is also very popular in Europe and I just don't hear it because I don't know anybody with taste that bad. I wouldn't have thought Eurodance could ever be popular enough to completely muscle out actual pop music, but there wasn't a peep of Britney, Christina, Gaga, Beyoncé, the Black Eyed Peas, or any other mega popstars the whole time. (Of course, eurodance remixes are like 20 minutes long apiece, so the sample wasn't very large in our 45-minute visit. Maybe they'd already used it up.)
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (medicine is the best medicine)
FUN FACTS! Did you know that anti-depressant prescriptions expire exactly 1 year after they're written? I didn't!

Usually you would never have reason to find this out. "How on Earth, Cim, could this come to happen to you?" you might be saying, especially if you have my experience of the withdrawal symptoms from an SSRI. Well, dear reader, it basically happened like this!

  1. From the time I first moved to Finland I was a student, and students get better public healthcare than regular members of the public.

  2. In summer 2008 I dropped out of school and had to stop seeing my psychiatrist. He told me that the waiting lists to see a public doctor are quite long. He gave me an extra-long prescription to make sure I didn't run out before I got in to see a doctor.

  3. This prescription lasted easily until the following January, when I made an appointment with a GP. I saw her in March 2009, at which point my extra-long prescription had nearly run out.

  4. The GP agreed that since I was doing well on my current prescription, but still needed it on a day-to-day basis, she would write another scrip for it without immediately putting me on the psychiatrist-waiting list. She said to go ahead and use up the rest of the old scrip before hers, which she wrote for 6 months.

  5. Because I am an airhead and my former -iatrist would write me a new paper scrip whenever he asked if I had plenty left and I said "I'm not sure, I might be almost out", I subsequently discovered three or four paper scrips with one or two fills left on them from him. And since anytime you see a GP it's a game of Russian Psychoactive Drugs Roulette whether they will try to tell you that you "shouldn't continue to need an SSRI indefinitely"... I used all of them up before I filled the GP's scrip for the first time. That was in September 2009.

  6. Because I am an airhead with a wacky sleep schedule I frequently go 24-36 hours before I remember to take my psychoactive drugs (usually thanks to the onset of withdrawal, yay!). So I only ran out last Monday.

I had already gone without a little longer than usual when I got Wax to the pharmacy with me (getting 100 pills at once still costs €75 or something and I didn't have that in my account) on Wednesday for my last 6-month refill. So I was unmedicated when I encountered in the person of the pharmacist, whose English sucked by the way, a Rude Angry-Glaring Unhelpful Person. (This is all too common in Finland.) Her method of informing us that we can't has medicine was a) too long, b) delivered partly in angry Finnish over my head to Wax, and c) confusing.

So I've been dealing with a lot more background anxiety over this (and the fact that I now have to sign up for the psychiatrist-waiting list) and also rediscovering the joy of My Brain Without SSRIs: Frequent food cravings! Slightly increased sex drive! The black spiral of "I am worthless" thoughts! Periodic crying jags, tears welling up whenever anyone raises their voice! Yeah, I haven't really missed it.

When I was trying to talk to someone in the public healthcare system about getting my medication back yesterday, I accidentally dialed the health center's switchboard instead of receptionist (mainly due to confusing design of the website, but also my confusion because I've never before encountered a doctor's office where the switchboard was anyone other than the receptionist... or at least not where they had a website, but the number for patients to call was not clearly displayed/labeled), and the switchboard lady didn't speak English or Swedish (whatever, but you actually are legally guaranteed service in Swedish from any branch of the government) and was equally as rude as the pharmacist to Wax, once Wax took the phone from me. However, when I dialed the 24-hour Advice From A Nurse hotline in exasperation because I couldn't figure out how to get my GP's receptionist, the nurse was INCREDIBLY helpful (she made the appointment for me), and also sweet.

This caused me and Wax to reflect on how Finland, being a country utterly without the concept of customer service, basically has 2 kinds of people in customer service:

  1. The people who should never, ever be allowed to answer the phone (possibly including their OWN phone) because they treat every conversation as an armed battle in which the other person, by speaking to them, has been the aggressor, and is probably fighting dirty. Everything you say to these people is received with an air of surprisedly outraged hostility, as if you've offended them not just egregiously but so unprecedentedly that they're still having trouble wrapping their brain around it. These people are frequently cashiers and bus drivers, but there are a surprising number of them in the human resources industry.

  2. The people who are genuinely nice, so their helpfulness is quite unlike the helpfulness you get from an American who is good at customer service. There's something earnest, never rehearsed about their helpfulness, because it springs not from any kind of training, but from actual niceness. I've talked to plenty of Americans in customer service who WERE genuinely nice (counting among them quite a few nurses and pharmacists), but the Finnish ones have a charming naïvete of approach because they've had to reinvent the Wheel of Polite Assistance.

...that's where my normally-sort-of-daily posts went. Hopefully your regularly scheduled programming will be returning soon.

PS: I'm totally making that shirt that says "Medicine Is the Best Medicine" now. Fuck yes.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (tiny small swimwear)
Oh, I forgot to tell you guys last week that the hot recurring lecturer (expert field: special ed) from my course revealed last week that she votes SFP (Svenska FolkPartiet = Swedish-speaking Finns' minority language group advocacy party).

I consider myself part of this minority (albeit by marriage), but the problem with SFP in politics is that it doesn't confine itself to language advocacy, but takes stance on a lot of other issues ... and overall is a fairly conservative party, with most of its support being aging and rural, while the biggest and most active segment of the Swedish-speaking minority moves towards bilingualism and political involvement on other issues. I'd never cast a vote for a party so socially conservative, a party that's all "Oh sure, nuclear power is maybe bad, and sure, we have the money and ideal situation for setting up renewable wind energy on the coast but that might spoil the view from my summer home, and also, I hate immigrants". (The party leader, Stefan Wallin, is a big dicksmack too, as certain recent attempts at suppressing journalists show.)

So as soon as she comes out as a supporter of this asshole party - okay, I make allowances for genuinely old people, like previous generations, just the way I do for their inability to grasp the internet, but not for someone less than 10 years Wax's senior. She can't be much past 40 if that. Anyway, she comes out as SFP in passing last week and just ruins my night.

The rest of the lecture was taken up with internal musing on the unfairness of the universe: Why so hot, yet so, so wrong, hot lecturer? Losing all respect for you will even probably kill some of my enjoyment of your charming red wooden clogs.

Wooden clogs by Torpatoffeln (Swedish) and Sanita (Danish), two of the biggest manufacturers thereof; these are the Nordic equivalent of flip-flops, garden shoes, and indoor shoes for winter, to be changed into when you leave your snow-crusted boots at the door.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (drama)
  • Wax won tickets to see Adam Lambert on Finnish X-Factor's season finale in a little more than a week. I guess we'll be going to Helsinki then. Weirdly, although I am more crowd-averse, Wax seems to be more dubious about the prospect of sitting through the rest of the taping (presumably other people are going to be performing too?). Mmm, Helsinki! Maybe we can get some American food while we're there!

  • After the legs completely fell off of my armchair, we bought some sturdy metal ones at Ikea thanks to a very nice and helpful little dude, but we couldn't put them on right away because each one needed about 4-5 screws and the wood frame of the chair is really hard. So for several weeks, I was sitting in the chair on the floor and had moved my monitor down like a foot. It was pretty weird. But last weekend, when we went to Pargas for Wax's favorite aunt's birthday, we borrowed MIL's power drill (which is kept in the woodshed at Ängisbacka) and so now my chair is the normal size again, and even has little felt pads on the feet! \o/ This is momentous. The chair problem was traumatic, guys.

    Wax & MIL last July at the woodshed or, as we like to call it after reading Emil i Lönneberga, Snickarboa.

  • Wax was like "Let's make cupcakes!!" last night. Vanilla sheetcake, for future reference: don't top it with vanilla powdered sugar frosting. Ew. Maybe peanut butter, or lemon cream cheese. Or chocolate.


  • Been catching up on a month or so each of CSI, Criminal Minds, and Bones, plus all this season of NCIS. The highlight of every episode of CSI is the Hodges and Wendy scenes for me, which is weird because hello, Lawrence Fishburne: they're more exciting due to writing (totally not doing all they could with bb there), not acting. Conversely, my problem with McGee isn't the character but the actor. When I squint and separate the screenwriting from the acting now I can really see it. The writing has always been iffy on NCIS - actually a better term would maybe be "wildly fluctuating", because you've got some great banter and sometimes even good content alongside inconsistent, nonsensical plots and nauseating jingoism. The acting and Mark Harmon being a silver fox generally saves it, but McGee is an exception. Not that the guy can't act; I just hate the way he interprets the character. I am really enjoying, on a lighter note, The Softer Side of Gibbs. I've taken to saying "Twinkle! Twinkle!" out loud whenever the camera makes love to Mark Harmon's handsome little eye wrinkles, and infected Wax with the habit too.


cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (Default)


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