Random rants and occasional raves on life outside metropolitan Finland.

Monday, August 25, 2003

The Venetian Alternative.

The current centre-left government of Finland has brought into national focus an ugly beast that has already raised its head globally. The apparent unwillingness to accept change of the noughties is in stark contrast to the breakneck pace of technological development and social change of the 1990's, and indeed the latter half of the 20th century - although I'll have to go by the words of wiser authors on anything preceding the 90's.

Are we returning to the same hangover experienced by the interwar generation in the 1930's, but a few short years distant from the all singing, all dancing and all electric twenties?The global rise of extremist movements, similar economic circumstances, and now, the return of moral conservatism all ring a familiar bell. Back then, it didn't lead to good things, and so far the world isn't doing much better. Although the number of conflicts has lately gone down a tad, their impact is now felt more intensely through increased media exposure, but also via economic effects . Military spending, too, is soaring back to Cold War levels. Arming ourselves to the teeth hardly seems to be the right way to drive the right message through to the uneducated masses in developing countries.

While America bombs itself into the hearts of countless Muslims, the French are hiding their heads in the sand. Their responsen couldn't be further from eachother, but at the root you'll find the same rot that drives us towards stagnation: the lack of openness. Finland, more than any other European country, needs to open it's borders to anyone who would be crazy enough to live in our miserable weather. The borders of the United States may be open to new workers, but calling the current US government's policies "open" is pushing it, badly. As bucolic as it would be to keep floating on our gondolas along the canals, they won't take us very far, and sooner of later someone will build that highway into our town.

Tomorrow is my last day in Haapajärvi. All in all, it's been a good summer up here, away from the tribes of Helsinki. Living here has given me a breathing opportunity, time for considering my future options, and, most importantly, shocked me out of a long cycle of depression. My low self-esteem is still there, but maybe this less goal-oriented existence (and, I say at the risk of sounding shallow, much lower demands on looking presentable :-)) has made me put it into proper perspective.

Of course there's always the unpleasant possibility that as soon as I get back to actually living in Helsinki (instead of just popping by for a weekend now and then) it will be one big déjà vu from years past. I'm not promising that I'll answer your calls the first time they ring, or that I'll reply to e-mails the second they arrive, but if it takes more than a week for me to get back to you, you'll know that I need support. Keeping this blog has helped me vent some of my frustration, and although I'll no longer be ranting and raving from outside metropolitan Finland, know ye this: once I get going, it's hard to shut me up.

So long, and thanks!

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Fags, hags and stags.

Although spending the better part of the summer in Middleofnowhereistan has effectively stopped me from living la vida gay, on weekends I've tried to get some rest and relaxation among my kindred. That has obligatorily meant going to bigger towns like Oulu, Tampere and Helsinki.

Before I headed out towards the countryside, I had my sight set on finding a gayer side of Finland outside Ring III. Although I managed to gather a few leads on semi-urban people with queer leanings, I drew a blank when it came down to actually these people. I'm sure I must've ignored some venues; for example, just yesterday it dawned on me that the fennoswedes up the Ostrobothnian cost woud, naturally, use Sylvester's hook-up services, not those of City or Koodi.net. The fact that I'm in a dead zone when it comes to SETA's groups doesn't help much either; the closest are in Vaasa, Oulu and Kuopio, which are all equally far away from this place, the Wisconsin of Finland.

Yet at the bottom line one finds the fundamental difficulty of most gay encounters: they have, by default, a very powerful sexual undercurrent. On just about any given dating service you'll find that for every person looking for friendship (though these, too, are often just masked attempts at finding a serious relationship) there are about 20 people looking for a fuck. Now, I'm lucky enough to have a well-established circle of gay friends to support me through tougher times, and to have fun with when good times roll. But I don't have to extend my imagination much to imagine a situation in which the only gay people I know are the stereotypes on television or that one guy in my village all the older people talk about in hushed tones. When finding any gay man is such a challenge, is it a miracle then that friendships are unaffordable?

Enter the best friend of most any gay man; the fag hag. It's such an ugly word - I prefer the "homoemo" of Finnish (roughly: gay mama) - but the concept bears with it too many positive effects to count. I wouldn't be the only-mildly-twisted person I am today without my own. And I think the mental well-being of many a man up here and even in the big cities is highly dependent on having around someone who doesn't deny you the right to be exactly who you are, is there for you when you're down and parties like a bitch from hell when you're up, and asks very little in return. Kudos!

A straight friend mailed me a link to Shawna Wells' take on the feminine side of what might be involved. Hers is an atypical situation, I'm sure, but it doesn't surprise me that she writes some serious LotR slash, too.

As for the stags, well, those mystical beasts I've yet to meet.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003


Last weekend Jaakko and his family threw up one of the most divine parties in a long time. The word party doesn't do it justice, because it had nothing to do with the usual cityside events, hosted in cramped apartments. It was a festival, in a beautiful garden, a historically laden milieu that was oh-so-fitting for the theme of the occasion, the 1950's. Good food, good drinks, good people - especially the latter. Most participants had really thought out their costumes, giving the evening that additional twist that makes the difference between a good party and a great party. Even the few exceptions were only too appopriate; after all, the 50's were very much an era of budding rebellion.

Alas, I forgot a few essential items from my, mind the boasting, rather successful costume. The lack of the first, a hip flask, for which I even had reserved some single malt Scotch, was fortunately compensated by the well-planned inclusion of a bottle of Koskenkorva vodka - at the firewood stockhouse, as tradition dictates - which was fraternally consumed at one of those circular meetings of lads, which spontaneously come into existence whenever more than 2 Finns meet and there's alcohol available. The second, my digital camera, was woefully left at home, and the only other camera I saw during the whole evening was on Jaakko's father's mobile phone. The quality of those pictures is lacking to say the least.

dtm was a hoot afterwards, although most of my straight friends were not up for the challenge and left before even the upstairs was open for men; I hooked up with Lissu and her sister, who's name escapes me. We (sort of) decided that I was going to join the Wellness gym as soon as it opens up on Eliel square - they have a "body and mind" room with yoga and stretching, which sounds really promising. Prices are, as Hakkis pointed out, ridiculously high compared to the University of Helsinki gym, but I'm such a newbie that I'm going to need constant supervision or else I'll start loosing body parts. Partying with a three-piece wool suit is all fine and dandy, but it's a tough proposition heat-exchange wise, so by 3.30 I was pretty dead. It took me the better part of Sunday to recover, and I only made it to Tampere by midnight. Did manage to finish Peter F. Hamilton's Misspent Youth, though. He makes some good points about separatism in a federalised European Union, but otherwise it was typical - in good and bad - Hamilton, more along the lines of A Second Chance At Eden than the Reality Dysfunction trilogy.

Back up north it's been pretty miserable thanks to the bad weather we've been cursed with after the wonderfully crazy heatwave. At least MTV3's been having a Will & Graceathon. Yesterday, between rains, I managed to shoot a few nice pictures which I've been planning for a while already - mostly I've wanted to wait until it's dark enough. You can check out the best shots here. While a written synthesis of this summer's events will probably come sometime next week, a picture gallery might be in order as well.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

The president that should've been.

I am talking, of course, about Al Gore. Loving, caring, and utterly boring, the man who won the popular vote in the latest American presidential election has kept a low profile in the ever-cooling atmosphere of post-9/11 America. Just last week though, when he finally opened his mouth in a public address for the first time in a year or so, the message that boomed out was clear and grave.

The former vice-president spoke at an event organised by MoveOn.org, an organisation devoted to putting the public back in the republic. He raises many good points. He can't resist, though, the temptation of listing - and certainly isn't the first to do so - some of the "false impressions" conveyed by the current US administration in justification of the liberation of Iraq. The war is now over, and, to quote South Park: "It's been six weeks since Saddam Hussein was killed by wild boars, and the world is still glad to be rid of him." And Gore himself admits his message isn't that removing a cruel dictator is wrong. To deceive a nation - and indeed, the world - on this and other accounts, is. To attempt to shut down democratic processes, is.

I won't reiterate all the arguments put forward by Gore here. The George Akerlof interview in the German weekly Der Spiegel - the sassier points of which are referred to in the speech - is definitely worth a read; heavy words from a Nobel laureate. Since national sovereignty is no longer in vogue, it would poetic justice if the rest of the world could come up with some ideas on how to prevent the re-election of the man responsible for a new breed of interventionism.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Quick note

Life has been throwing little pebbles my way for the last couple of days, preventing me from posting anything. Last week I got some sort of funky stomach flu or food poisoning, which kept me in bed for the better part of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. On Saturday I did make it to the gay sauna (not the seedy hamam-kind, please) at Jani's, even though there was much crayfish standing between me and 80 degrees of sweet relief. Didn't make it to Mixei though, still had bad mojo left over from previous days. On the gossipy side, things are boiling down Tampere way, with G-A-Y parties bound to repeat the success of their June edition, the aforementioned gay bar lost to terrible, terrible music, and the traditional Leimarit having been transformed into obscure events that no longer seem to serve most of the community; certainly not the people I know from Tampere. Check out the conversation at TreSeta or at Ranneliike (Finnish only, sorry).

And I still can't get over the fact that student apartments in Tampere have saunas these days! In Helsinki you're lucky to get a tiny room in some distant ghetto 10 miles from your school.

Sunday is spent honing the gaymobile, washing, vacuuming and waxing, and driving it to the maintenance guy. Although our June road-trip isn't to blame (there were signs a few years back already), some tube that has something to do with power-steering finally gave up, and since the replacement (which had to be ordered from the States) had finally arrived, it was time to hand that beautiful machine over to someone who knows their way around under the hood.

Monday I come to work only to find out my monitor has been scavenged to replace one that had blown up at the plasma cutter. Now I'm happily typing away at my new 17-inch Flatron, so I'm not complaining - although it's been much too long a hiatus. I haven't read the news in a few days, but I'm sure I'll have formed some opinions by tomorrow. Try and stop me!

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Almost, anyway...

The Episcopal House of Deputies elected Canon Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. His appointment to the post by the House of Bishops, his future peers, was to be a rubber-stamp routine operation. Robinson would have then become the first openly homosexual person to hold such a high position in one of the major Christian churches - after Canon Jeffrey John turned down his own appointment as the Bishop of Reading.

While there is, if not evidence, then at least certainly, indication that there have even been gay popes, most notably Julius III (sugardaddied a 17-year-old from Parma), Benedict IX (voted 'Worst Pope Ever'), and John XII (arranged orgies in the Lateran Basilica). Catholic tradition even knows gay saints, Sts. Sergius and Bacchus, and Sts. Polyeuct and Nearchos - although both pairs tread on the fine line between homosexuality and homosociality.

Of course, it itsn't the Catholic church that is on the verge of admitting a reality they've been trying to deny for two millennia now; that gay men and women have been and will always be as intrinsic a part of the Holy Church as they are of society in general. Even if every single gay person were to leave the Catholic church today, in a generation you'd find the ranks replenished through birth. But, in the meantime, let them stick to their considerations.

So all that is standing between Gene Robinson and his bishopric is a silly allegation from a man who refuses to expound on what is "inappropriate touching", and e-mail spam sent to some bishops claiming that the website of an organisation Rev. Robinson endorses (i.e. he does not own the website, nor does he blog there, nor is he its webmaster) contained a link to a site that contains a link to a site that has, I kid ye not, 'pornographic images'! What is this?! Are they playing the two-degrees-of-porn-separation -game? On a network that was built on pornography, accidentally running into some gratuitous booty isn't exactly a feat.

Now read the fine print: "they discovered a link to a site called bisexuality.com and there found a window with pornographic images." Seeing as how the site is actually just a front to an organisation selling unused but reserved domains, and advertises just about everything under the sun, why won't we all join hands and shout a few happy words in the ears of these dimwit silver surfers: they're called popups!

The whole mess will likely be cleared up in no time and we'll all have a good laugh at those who resorted to these pathetic ad-hominem attacks, but in the meantime, I offer some alternative food for the soul: apparently Cherie Blair's thrilling karaoke rendition of The Beatles' "When I'm 64" has become a huge hit on Ibiza! Somebody recorded her performance during the Blairs' recent Asia tour, and must've forwarded the samples to a dj. The P2P-sphere wasn't awash in it, yet, but as most of Europe heads for vacations in August, this might still become the song you'll remember from the summer of '03. They're never the good ones, after all.

Monday, August 04, 2003

Ponsa-Pinsiö-Pariisi in a few short days.

I was busy for the latter half of last week and couldn't post, as my work took me to the Farmari '03 Agricultural Fair of Finland, in Oulu. I mostly did some reconnaissance work, checking out the competition and talking to potential customers. The weather was tropical, which didn't stop me from joining a few local gay acquaintances (thanks to Matti who'd done some recon of his own a few weeks back) and attending my first-ever 1990's theme party (I dub thee ysäribileet) at the Hot Night Club (hot turned out to be quite a literal description).

We partied outrageously to Dr Alban, Alexia, Dj Bobo, Captain Jack and, most importantly, up-and-coming '90's pastiche dance music group Chorale, from Toijala... I was rolling in tears of laughter when these extremely straight acting and looking ice-hockey-player types with a pinch of snuff up their lips started lipsynching to the inane lyrics of Yön susta unta nään. Bizarre, but refreshing too, that my first '90's party wasn't in dtm but in Oulu! It must've been still in the 1990's that I last visited an explicitly straight night club - although my new and improved countryside gaydar did catch a few blips and some booms over the course of the evening. I would've loved to stay, as Oulu turned out to be much more of a city than I had expected, but then, it has only surprised me positively so far.

Janne's new game set in contemporary Bay City, MI, is promising more and more as we seem to be getting to the meat. With just one player besides myself, Markus, the level of emotional involvement is even higher than in Markus's Trinity, which I previously had considered to be the hallmark of intensity. After the game we headed to Simo's cozy house warming party, and later in the evening I hooked up with some friends at dtm. Sunday it was slacking and road tripping time again. Unlike Friday, I had some company on this journey, as Pauli and Tomi were kicking off their holidays by visiting Tomi's parents in central Finland.

Tomorrow: Episcopalians get it right where Anglicans didn't, and Cherie Blair dances the funky chicken.

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