Never Too Late!

Never Too Late!
any resemblance to anyone real or imaginary is mere bad luck
we are all lying in the gutter, but some of us are trying to get up


The cold North

Finland's contribution to the Transmet future

Finland finally have win the Eurovision song contest with Lordi's Hard Rock Hallelujah (awfully lo-res video of their performance), threatening unbelievers with a day of rockening. After 51 years of really trying. After countless national-inferiority-complex-aggravating zero, more nil-scores than every other competing nation combined (don't quote that last statistic in any context demanding an accurate reference; it is merely a well-educated guess).

But there is other interesting stuff to come out of Finland lately, too.

This is the third week of the Helsingin Sanomat (Helsinki News, Finland's largest circulation broadsheet newspaper) reality videoblog competition: "Sinustako matkaopas - Could you be a travel guide?" (Note the laconic succinctness of the language.)

The premise is as follows: take five couples, send them all for a weekend in a randomly chosen European city, they each produce short videos about the city and post them to the website, people vote by text message to eliminate one couple each week. Please to check some of the videos out; a selection presented below. They stream without delay. Seamless web design. Finnish technology.

The videos, my inside source told me, are done on a Nokia N91 phone, one of which is given to each couple, which not only records video to its internal hard drive, but edits it too, ready for broadcast. Revolutionary. Finnish technology.

Why do we like this so much? The videoblog competition is, for a start, something rather innovative for a traditional print newspaper of record to be doing with their website. Nokia have regained their edge in the mobile phone market. And it's all so very Transmet.

Transmetropolitan has been described here before - one of the most compelling and convincing dark future dystopias, in any medium. How much "speculative" sci-fi has - fuck warp drives or turbolasers - contemplated with any intelligence what the over-saturation of media, information and communications technology, combined with ubiquitous chemical self-programming, is doing to the human mind?

Foucault, Lyotard and their French post-modernist ilk indigestible? Read Transmet instead: hyper-reality and near-future anomie and alienation in glorious technicolour. Links: Warren Ellis (writer) interview, succinct Wired magazine obit for the ended series, plot summaries with disarmingly non-intellectualist commentary, Flash movie demonstrating the main character Spider Jerusalem's icy cool motherfucker-ness.

Selection of videos from the competition

Realising few of you will be conversant in Finnish, here is a selection of videos which may be appreciated nonetheless. These are from the first two weeks, encompassing first Amsterdam and then Berlin.

Vague psychedelia in Amsterdam... this couple's videos have without a doubt been the most creative, but apparently not to the taste of the puritan Finns, as they were just voted out in Oslo this weekend (the third couple to go) [update & correction: they're still in, head to head with my man Ukko from Rovaniemi in the finals]. The girl's face distorted strangely by a multiple reflection is saying "don't smoke wacky-baccy... beware the wacky-baccy... oh, don't touch them jazz cigarettes..."

Another of theirs... A stroke of true genius, this is the talking thumb guide-book (instantly recalling the Hitch-Hiker's Guide). Its Amsterdam entry says: "It is good to remember that you can do other things in Amsterdam apart from hallucinate in a cafe. If you want your own windmill, remember to have at least 4m euros handy. You will also need a license. Your own window on the red-light street will cost you 350 euros per day. More than anything, you should just enjoy this land of strangely speaking funny people. Have a nice day."

In this clip from Berlin, a female contestant does a brilliant impersonation of Inspector Harjunpaa (the two last "a"s are meant to have dots on top), the archetypal Finnish TV cop.

Again in Berlin, watch this if you wish to learn both the Finnish and the German for the following phrases: where are my sausages?, I have a beer in my leather trousers, I'm hungry, let's eat some ice-cream, where is the nearest cock-fight, please?, and vote for the best, vote for #1!

My old friend Ukko (this is a rare and etymologically fascinating name, meaning both "old git", "geezer" or "[old] man", as well as being the thunder-god of the ancient pagan Finns) has taken a hard journalism route; no fucking around with psychedelics in Amsterdam or with 2-litre German beer steins. Here he interviews former Finnish Prime Minister Esko Aho at the airport (who doesn't say anything interesting, but he has uniquely loveable eyebrows), and here, a possibly boring video which ends on a cheerful bi-lingual double-entendre: the statue they are leaning on is inscribed "Multatuli", Finnish for "I just came! (or should that be cummed, in correct internet porno-speak?) I just jizzed!"

Ukko was a junior sergeant in the military police. Come wartime, it would be his job to round up deserters from the glorious Finnish army like fucking Mikey and shoot him. Unfortunately, he lost his job after giving an interview revealing pacifist, anarchist and dope-smoking tendencies to an alternative Helsinki newspaper. Equally unfortunately, around the same time the Finnish Army lost several valuable super-bright high-pressure arc lights (ideal for growing cannabis indoors) from a firing range which junior sergeant Ukko's detachment was guarding. As it happens, U's old man is a psychiatrist, and when Mikey still had a Finnish passport (he can lay claim to no less than four passports, just like your humble scribe) and he got a letter from the government the other day, opened it and read it and said they were suckers... they wanted me for their army or whatever, picture me giving a damn, I said never... he declared that gutter-trash unfit for service on mental health grounds, right there and then, in a MacDonald's in the underground shopping-centre beneath Helsinki's central railway station.

Largely spurious mental health grounds, and unnecessary, as Mikey did a runner to the safety of the warmer climes he was dragged up in (the story is referenced here, in the book review towards the end of the post, of The Dice Man for "Life-Changing Books"; the first confirmed piece of writing attributed to Ishmael Smith). Once, Mikey was detained at the airport while visiting Hell... sinki for stupidly using the wrong passport to enter the country (this was before Schengen) and almost being arrested for AWOL'ism. Now, those mental health grounds have become quite real... evidenced by the fact that if it happened again, the stupid fucker would actually probably volunteer for service, despite being almost too old by now, provided he got to be a helicopter door-gunner and got sent on active duty, peace-keeping in Kosovo or something.
(The flag; the Monty Python Finland song is available for illegal download here. Do the righ-click "save link as" procedure.)

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