Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Finnish in Middle Earth

Sophia hasn't read any Tolkien yet. She knows the stories from the movies and has a picture of a certain elf hanging in her room. I read all the books, even Silmarillion. When I read the books, I didn't pay much attention to the elvish or dwarvish, but then I never paid attention to Klingon either.

Tolkein wrote his wonderful books as a vehicle for the languages he invented. Arika Okrent, in her book In the Land of Invented Languages, explains that when The Lord of the Rings was published, Tolkein had been working on the languages for fifty years.

According to Okrent, Tolkein fell in love with Welsh as a child. As a student at Oxford, Tolkein discovered Finnish and said, "It was like discovering a wine-cellar filled with bottles of amazing wine of a kind and flavour never tasted before. It quite intoxicated me."

So, a tipsy toast to Finnish! Kippis!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Sataa lunta, sataa vettä

The rain was not falling this morning. It was flying horizontally, driven by a strong and gusty wind. We braved the walk to the bus stop so that Sheba could have her morning walk. She hasn't left the house since. In New Hampshire, autumn is roaring in and will be followed closely by winter.

In Finland, the flakes are already flying. This hardly seems fair since the Helsinki snow pile finally disappeared only one month ago. At one point the snow pile was taller than the roller coaster in Linnanmäki. (If you are a roller coaster enthusiast, you must go to Helsinki. The roller coaster in Linnanmäki, Vuoristorata, is wooden and has a brakeman in the last car.)

The image above is from the Helsingin Sanomat and shows the snow piles height in comparison to famous statues in Helsinki, Paavo Nurmi and Mannerheim.

The pile's demise may have solved some mysteries. Among the refuse found in the pile were 2 motorcycles. Can you imagine looking for your motorcycle after a big storm?

Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, the bad weather might dampen the scene at the New Hampshire Championship regatta in Pembroke, New Hampshire. The University of Melbourne crew (and many other boats) will be racing down the Merrimack and I hope the rain will stay away.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

With you, Not at you!

Sophie and I went to see the musical Spamalot. We had a wonderful time. Sophie has watched enough Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Life of Brian to laugh along at the inside jokes. We were sitting in the Gods with the entire IT department of a local community college. They were also in on the inside jokes. They were laughing before the jokes.

The opening scene of Spamalot concerns confusion between the words "Finland" and "England" and there is a silly Finnish dancing scene that caused Sophie to complain loudly "was nothing like Finland". She was personally offended that Finland was being mocked by the Fish Slapping Dance.

I found some of the funniest humor of Spamalot was in the program. The musical numbers listed in the program included "the show-stopping, foot stomping East Finland Moose ballet-45 magnificent creatures in high-stepping harmony." The program also explained that all of the "action takes place entirely in a sauna". I hope that the East Finland Moose ballet will come to Concord one day.

One show that Sophie doesn't know about is South Park. It is way too naughty for a 10 year old. A friend showed me an episode of South Park where Finland is destroyed by the other nations for being way too honest. Like many other South Park episodes, there is a factual basis for the absurd story line. Finland is currently the 6th least corrupt country. In 2003, Finland was at the top of the list for transparent government.

You can watch the South Park episode "Pinewood Derby" from season 13 here. And below are some You Tube clips for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Flag Day! Aleksis Kivi Day

Today is Aleksis Kivi Day in Finland and I am sure the flags are flying in Turku.

Aleksis Kivi is one of the great literary founders of Finland. His gritty novel, Seven Brothers, caused a stir because it was written and published in Finnish. The first Finnish novel! My husband calls it the Ur Novel. He has actually read it!

Aleksis Kivi was born in 1834 as Aleksis Stenvall. He changed his name to the Finnish word kivi - stone - as part of the Finnish nationalist movement. It is an apt name because he is the bedrock of Finnish literature. He is credited with creating written Finnish. Before Seven Brothers, there was very little written Finnish. You can read more about the development of written Finnish here on my blog.

You can read more about Kivi here. It is striking to realize that after creating a literature that would lead to the recognition of Finland as an independent country, he died at the young age of 38. The article also explains that he never made it overseas, but he did make it to Turku!

Turku was a cultural center in Kivi's lifetime and remains a cultural center today. If you want to read more about Turku or plan your next Finnish vacation you can read the New York Times article about Turku as the 2011 European Capital of Culture here.

Turku still has a major role in the literary life of Finland. Writers are seemingly everywhere. I ran into Reijo Mäki in Turku. I would also see Riku Korhonen striding out of the library or through the kauppatori. Riku Korhonen was recently awarded a European Union prize for literature for his novel Lääkäriromani.

And here is a little video from a movie about Aleksis Kivi. I believe the music is Sibelius and it is shot in what I would say is the UR Finnish landscape!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Angrier and angrier

In a previous post I talked about the Finnish game, Angry Birds. Sophie and I both play it and Sophie is way out ahead. She is so deep into the game that the pigs are now flying a Swedish flag. Finns are doubly happy when they defeat Sweden in, say, hockey. Happy because they won, but most importantly because Sweden lost. It is no wonder the aggravating pigs are flying the Swedish flag in this Finnish game.

The NYT Magazine had an article about Angry Birds in Sunday's paper. You can read it here. The writer captures the anger that the smug pigs inspire when you fail to blow them to smithereens. They grin, grunt, and gloat and you have to try again.

For a different type of angry birds, try the angry birds of prey in the movie "The Legend of the Guardians". The movie is based on the book series by Kathryn Lasky. I read them all to Sophie and loved the movie. The books are full of mythology and creation myths. Kathryn Lasky lives in Cambridge and spent time studying owls at the Harvard Natural History Museum. Go to Harvard to see a dire wolf.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

"Hold My Bicycle While I Kiss Your Girlfriend"

My friend Autumn and I were talking about a recent NYT article on bicycle chic. The article reminded me of a fun blog from Copenhagen named Cycle Chic. The mast head of the blog reads: Hold My Bicycle While I Kiss Your Girlfriend. The blog features photos of all the stylish people pedaling around Copenhagen. I went to the blog to send the link to Autumn and found that the blog is featuring the ultra stylish cyclists of Helsinki! Starting on September 28, Cycle Chic features scenes from Helsinki!

For more street fashion from Helsinki, check out this blog!

You can see from the above photo that I need to work on my cycle chic!