Thursday, September 30, 2010

More Finnish fun for your iPhone

I have a new Finnish game on my iPhone. It is Heroes of the Kalevala. I wish the story was told in Finnish rather than English. The narrator's pronunciation of Väinämöinen made me think that my guide was named Wayne something or other.

Even without a Suomeksi option, you can enjoy arranging your berries and helping your village win the Sampo. The game is the product of a small company based in Tampere. It is hard to imagine what Elias Lönnrot would have made of this game.

Watch the video below for something that Elias Lönnrot would have found more familiar:

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Languages: silent and spoken

In New York this week, the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs organized and hosted a conference on the rights of people with disabilities. One event was a concert by the Finnish rap star, Signmark.

Signmark was born deaf and is the first deaf recording artist to sign with a major music label. His concerts are bilingual--American Sign Language and English.

He also raps in Finnish Sign Language. You can watch a Finnish music video here:

The fact that Signmark rapped in New York in English spoken lyrics and American sign language made me realize that sign language differs between countries. I hadn't thought about diversity of sign language around the world. It is easy to hear the differences in spoken language, but different sign languages can go unrecognized--at least by me.

I am reading a fascinating book that Chris' mother, Marilyn, recommended: In the Land of Invented Languages by Arika Okrent. Okrent sheds light on the natural development of language as she explains the many failed attempts to invent a perfect language. Just as I listen to Selkouutiset (clear Finnish news) on, efforts have been made to invent a "Basic English".

Okrent writes that Churchill was a proponent of Basic English and urged Roosevelt to take up the Basic English banner. Roosevelt teased Churchill that his speech exhorting, "blood, toil, tears, and sweat", would have been much less inspiring in Basic English: blood, work, eye water and face water".

As Okrent writes about the limited success of Esperanto and the many shortcomings of other "man made" languages, she explains that sign languages are not "a sort of universal pantomime". Sign languages differ from country to country because they evolve naturally--like spoken language.

What a linguistic wonder Signmark must be. He rhymes in Finnish and English, sign and spoken language, all without hearing his own voice.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What's in a name? A rose is a rose until you trademark it.

Today is the last day of Fashion Week in New York. According to the schedule IVANAhelsinki will be showing their line today at 9:00 p.m. (that's right now!)

This is big, big news! Even the Finnish Consulate in New York is excited! The runway show is a first for a Finnish design house and that surprises me because Finland is known for design.

But, this being New York, there has to be some Trump action. Ivana Trump is suing the Finns for what she claims is a violation of her trademark on the name Ivana, even though the designer's name is Paola Ivana Suhonen.

Ivana Trump could be a Gold Bug!

What is a Gold Bug? Good question! I am sure that there are no gold bugs in Finland.

My first run in with a gold bug was in the law library in Savannah. He was a small man who did nothing but poke into law books (the older, the better) and file countless motions. I ran into another gold bug in the federal courthouse in Atlanta. He claimed that the court had no jurisdiction over him because the American flag in the courtroom had a gold fringe and was therefore a "flag in admiralty". Just a friendly word of warning: If you find yourself in court and your best argument concerns the fringe on the should have your toothbrush with you.

If I ran into 2 gold bugs in Georgia, avid newspaper readers in NH will not be surprised to know that there are gold bugs aplenty here in the Granite State.

Gold Bugs are people who believe that (among other things) since the dollar is not tied to the gold standard they do not need to pay taxes. Don't ask me to explain any further. I just can't. But like Ivana Trump, gold bugs understand the power of the trademark.

Take for example Ivana Trump's role model, Ghislain Breton. Mr. Breton claimed to have copyrighted his name and sent court personnel claims for $500,000 every time his name was used. He even filed liens on their homes.

This was soft IP turned hard core and no laughing matter for the clerks with the liens clouding their titles. Gold bugs and tax protesters can issue frightening threats and cause life-endangering situations.

I don't know where Ivana Trump stands on the gold standard or fluoridated water, but she is raining on the Finnish fashion parade. If La Trump were absolutely fabulous, she would plop herself down in front of the runway and enjoy the show.

PS: Does anyone know how to TM Megan?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Tsar's empire

A friend from high school, Mike Cantrell, is living in Russia. He and his wife, Olga, are missionaries. I enjoy following their lives and work on Mikes' blog. Mike's recent post was about a collection in the Library of Congress: the photographs of Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944)

The Boston Globe also has an extensive gallery of pictures from the collection. They are truly amazing. The Boston Globe explains the process for taking the glorious color prints in the collection. Prokudin-Gorskii used a special camera to take 3 photographs in rapid succession. He used color filters to show the nearly true colors of the subjects. As the Boston Globe emphasizes, the pictures document life before the Russian revolution and WWI.

I have chosen a picture for my blog, "Finn digging potatoes". You can see the picture at the Library of Congress web site. The LOC web site says this picture was taken between 1905 and 1915.

After the initial, small Swedish colonial wave of settlement, the Finns began to arrive the United States in the 1880s. I imagine that this potato farmer could have easily picked up and left that barren field in Russian-controlled Finland to head for the more lucrative mills and pastures of Fitchburg or Newport.

Finnish immigration increased in the early 19th Century with towns like Newport and Fitchburg having sizable Finnish populations. Newport once supported 3 Finnish Halls: Socialist, Communist, and Temperance.

To learn more about Finnish Halls you can watch the trailer for the forthcoming production of Big Finn Hall about the Finnish Hall in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Angry Birds?

It is cathartic to slingshot angry birds through the air in the hopes of destroying grunting pigs. I am a little addicted to the game, but not as advanced as my daughter. The back story is that the pigs are stealing the birds' eggs and you manipulate the trajectory of the birds to destroy the outlandish castles that house the pigs.

When I read that Angry Birds, the most popular game in the iTunes app store, is Finnish, I knew I had to test if for my blog. Kaksi thumbs up!

Angry Birds is a product of the Rovio Company, based in Espoo. The web site explains that Rovio descends from a company started by Helsinki University of Technology students in 2003.

The Helsinki area is hot (literally) with IT and computer technology. By hot, I mean that the computers roaring away in Helsinki generate vast amounts of heat. In order to cool the computers, innovators in Finland are pumping in Baltic sea water and using the transferred heat as part of the city's energy needs. You can read about it here.

If you haven't yet heard about Angry Birds, you will soon. Variety reports that a movie and toys are in production.

Remember, no matter what Hitch would have you believe, the original angry birds sprung from the pen of Daphne Du Maurier.

Listen below to the music from Angry Birds. Get used to it. As sure as eggs are eggs, you will hear it a lot.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Jatka, jatkuu, jatkua... (But really this is a post about soccer!)

Oy! I am still studying Finnish. On many (not all) nights, I listen to Selkouutiset on my computer My vocabulary changes with world events. After one week I might be familiar with all the words dealing with flooding in Pakistan. (tulva/flood)+(apu/aid)=tulva-apua. Another week, I am heavily into EU economic discussions. I am following the rise in membership of the True Finns party and the fall of Finnish interest rates. I am woefully ignorant of the grammar, but the good, slow-talking folks at try to use all forms of a word.

Some nights I skip Selkouutiset and jump into Finnish with my daughter. We either watch one of our Muumilaakso dvds or do a YouTube search for Pokemon dubbed in Finnish. Nothing makes my daughter happier than Finnish Pokemon.

As my vocabulary grows, my respect for anyone who can actually speak Finnish increases. Take, for example, my new linguist hero Medo!

Who on earth is Medo, you may ask. I don't blame you. I had no idea who he was until my husband came home at lunch to watch Medo's last game for his Helsinki team. There was even a Medo-cam following Medo's every move on the field.

Medo is a foreign-born Finnish citizen and a Finnish footballer. This means he is eligible to play for Finland and that he has passed a Finnish language test. Somehow, it seems easier to play international football than to pass a Finnish language exam.

Medo is the affectionate fan nickname for Mohamed Kamara. Born in Sierra Leone, Medo came to Finland to play for Sierra Leone in the U-17 FIFA world championships in 2003. You have only to look at Sierra Leone on a map to know there are hurdles to overcome in life harder than learning Finnish.

Long years of civil war in the west African nation left Medo an orphan. When his U-17 team, the Sierra Stars, arrived in Finland from their war torn country, they were probably overwhelmed by the contrasts. From chaos and violence to the orderly life that Finns enjoy.

I would like to learn more about how Medo and his teammates escaped after the tournament. Finland has very strict asylum laws and they were young teens fleeing their handlers for an uncertain future.

Medo has just signed a 3 year contract with FK Partizan, a Serbian team. I wonder if he will add Serbian to his language repertoire. And, just yesterday, Finland lost to Moldova, 2-0. Medo wasn't on the team, but if Finland doesn't make it into the European Championships we might have to hunt for news of the Serbian league in order to follow his career.