Friday, September 28, 2012

Design. Work. Play.

Or that's what the lecture series should have been called, I think.

Realistically it was called something rather boring, i.e. Aalto Symposium for Studying and Improving Design Practice. Pfff. You'd think people in design could have come up with something better, but somehow it slipped their minds to think of something creative. I scoff. (Well, actually not, but if I were a Designer instead of a designer, I definitely would...definitions of the differences to come later).

When my old TA (JBL) from college rang me up several months ago to tell me he was going to be in Helsinki to give a lecture, I was rather shocked. I didn't realize the rest of the world had noticed my departure from America. (Yes, it's true, I actually don't think the world revolves around me and people pay attention to my every little action...but it was kind of nice to know that someone actually had ^_^). Anyway, I was flattered, and of course agreed to see his lecture.

Making the lecture series sound important (which it was) and my attendance to it mandatory (also true), I broached the subject with my manager carefully and was astounded to find that she encouraged my attendance...nay, insisted that I attend and bring my teammate along. So, upon the given day I happily walked the three blocks from my apartment to where the symposium was being held.

...and promptly got lost.

Whoever decided to name this symposium and where it should be held should clearly talk to some user experience people. This person needs to be fired. Or at least demoted.

But I digress. 

As I got there I was greeted by a familiar face and entered into what has now become a rather nostalgic but never-forgotten feeling of childhood: the classroom. Ah, the classroom. With all its connotations of earnest hopes and wide thoughts...smashed by the fact that I was wearing silly professional adult clothing in order to fully represent what I have come to realize is the snobbery of my industry here in Finland. But I'll return to that later as well.

Anyway, I sat down, excited to be filled with a day of learning. To be a sponge. And so sponge I did.

And it took me by surprise. All of the lectures centered around one particular topic (which I hadn't picked up from the rather unimaginative title) - the rather rocky and tenuous relationship between the academic world of design and the industry of design. Uhhh oh. I could see where this was gonna go.

And unfortunately go it did. It became an argument of "us" versus "them." Unfortunately I was one of the "them." In a room of mostly academic speakers, I felt something I have not felt in a long time...incompetent. I was out of my element. For the first time in years there was very little I could do to adapt to this situation. I was sitting in a boiling pot full of lobsters ready to scream. 

Silence always being my friend in cases like these, there's only so much I wanted to say. So I will say it here (immense apologies, JBL):

The marriage between academia and industry is difficult. It's difficult because although everyone may have come from basically the same place (hey, relatively speaking we all went to school), our toolboxes have changed. We're all hacking at the same block of stone using different tools, trying to make the same thing (assuming we've all talked and agreed about making the same thing). And sometimes that's great - no one's saying that there is only one way to make something and that you can only use a certain set of tools. No no, I wouldn't ever say that. But unless it's coordinated, communicated, understood...where are we going to go? We're going to make a mess. And what comes out, is not what we all agreed upon. Pretty sure no one will be quite satisfied with the results.

The real understanding comes in being able to use someone else's tools and make something great with them. That's where the hard part is though. You're so used to using your own tools and knowing how they work, you're comfortable with them. Most people like staying with what is familiar and set...routine. This is where the marriage is rocky - not being able to use each other's tools. This, unfortunately, is where the solution lies though. Until we can use each other's tools and make something great with them, we're not going to get anywhere.

And unfortunately the only way to get great with someone else's tools? Practice. Experience. Exposure. You can't just live in one arena and expect to know the glory and the benefits of the other. Not fully, anyhow. Go do the other, see both sides (hell, see ALL sides), then you'll know. Then you'll have all the tools.

/end rant.

In any case, the design symposium was full of brilliant people thinking and contemplating and realizing brilliant things. As academics always are, and always will be. My lack of competence aside, I enjoyed being in a different environment, seeing the other side. Made me realize how much I missed this kind of learning (because it's not like just because you stop going to school you've stopped learning...or at least I hope not ^_~).

So, thanks. You know who you are.

And we're back!

Thanks for bearing with me as I went on a small hiatus. Conclusions: the business trip was good! Got some glorious eating and shopping in, as well as some pleasure and much needed sunshine. Feels a bit weird to be back in Finland, but alas, also good to be back in fresh air (not that California isn't fresh).

I will say though, I did miss Finland a bit. Stranger things have happened.

And so, without further ado, I will continue posting in the very near future. I'll not be posting about my times away (other than maybe to mention that London was just as smelly, dirty, and racist as I remembered it), but life will soon pick up again and I will be posting about my adventures presently. In the meantime, enjoy a bit of backlog.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A day of homecooking

Since I moved to Helsinki I admittedly have not done much cooking.

Chalk it up to the expense of groceries, subsidized lunches (which are actually quite fulfilling and delicious), the long "summer" days, and extreme exercise, but I've just been too something to cook.

Those who knew me in San Diego would probably think this mostly an atrocity. As someone who was a member of a CSA (community-supported's where you get a box of organic produce from local farmers every 2 weeks) for several years in a row (and absolutely delighted in meal planning and pantry cooking to no end) and hostess to several homemade dinner parties, this is a rather dramatic lifestyle change.

I love cooking, it's true. But for whatever reason when I moved, I just didn't want to do it anymore.

There are real reasons behind this, I believe, other than the ones I mentioned before. It's not my actual kitchen, I only have a subset of the tools and gadgets that I had before, ingredients are harder to get and my pantry isn't as well-stocked...etc etc...but at the end of the day, I just don't eat as much. And I don't have someone to cook for anymore (sad truth).

Well, this past weekend, apparently my mind had had enough. It needed some homecooked goodness. So I cooked myself up a bit of home.

It started out with fried rice in the morning. Simple, delicious, filling. The night before on British D's birthday pub crawl all me and the other Asians on the crawl could talk about was sticky rice, sticky rice, sticky rice (otherwise known as "neu mai fun"...apologies to all for horrendous misspellings of pinyin). And when I woke up in the morning, that was all I could think of. So I made the next best thing (since sticky rice is the devil to make and I definitely had almost none of those ingredients).

Fried rice is pretty easy to make and boy is it good. A taste of home, right in my American wok. Thank you Mom and Dad for teaching me the good stuff. :)

Admittedly this was a poor man's version of what it should have been. I did it chop suey style and used whatever I had in the fridge - in this case makkara (hot dogs), canned corn, frozen peas, and an onion. But it was still tasty, and I still had 3 bowls full (yes, an enormous amount).

Despite this homecooked awesomeness though, I was still a little nostalgic later that day, so...I continued my cooking adventure:

Ramen. Glorious ramen. One of my absolute favorites. And a standby for whenever I'm feeling anything remotely close to down.

This one was actually made pretty classy - instead of using the packet of seasoning it comes with to make the soup base, I had real chicken broth made from the boiled bones of a roasted chicken. Incredibly flavorful. I added the necessary peas and raw egg as well (my favorites, other than Chinese sausage, aka "lapcheung").

I was absolutely stuffed when I went to sleep that night but I felt filled in a way I haven't in a long time. After months of eating nothing but raw vegetables, salads, and open-faced sandwiches, there was just something that never felt right. Guess I know what it was - homecookin'.

If all goes to plan I'll be cooking up a storm in another week for a dinner party (first one since I moved here! :D), so I'm looking forward to that. Perhaps I will return to my hostess ways, after all. ;)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tunes from the crypt!

Similar to the Night of the Arts, the Helsinki Festival had made its way to my ears and a massivore list of entertainments was once again at my fingertips:

Helsinki Festival

This time, however, I was prepared for scanning and discerning. This time...I made a sweet choice.

And luckily Hong Kong P and German K were more than interested in going along with me.

I chose something called, "Ateljee Aimard." I'm sure the name means as much to you as it does to me. (Which is not very much...I'm not even certain what language that is supposed to be in).

Described only as "Superb chamber music in the atmospheric Cathedral Crypt as a part of the Ateljee series. The musicians play valuable instruments owned by Pohjola Bank Art Foundation.", I knew it was something I needed to check out. I mean, how could I not want to listen to (assumedly) classical music in a cathedral crypt? That sounds awesome!

So one day after work I made my way to the appointed crypt, and took a seat. German K (being quite German and timely), had already arrived and we got seats in the front (saving a seat for the ever-late Hong Kong P).

It was to be a concert of piano and violin duos. Quite sexy.

The first duo, admittedly, was a bit strange. I've not listened to this kind of music in awhile (not live, anyway, and certainly not so close...I was probably 3 feet away from the pianist), and it was a bit strange hearing the passionate breathing of both the pianist and the violinist as they played. I guess when I played piano I don't remember needing to breathe so hard. Maybe I was no good. Or I was never taught the appropriate technique.

You could also tell that the first duo was not particularly professional. I don't mean this in an insulting way, just in an observing way. First off, both of them required sheet music. As far as I understood (and have seen), real professionals memorize the pieces they're to play in front of the public. Something to do with professional pride. Second, one of them had a page turner for her sheet music (the pianist), but he was actually no good. A few times she nodded at him to indicate he should turn the page but he somehow missed it, making her huff at him and turn it herself. Eventually she just turned her own pages. Epic page turner fail.

Also, and I hate to say this because in general I'm not a snob about this sort of thing...their clothes were a bit off. Ill-fitting evening wear made of material that didn't sit well. I dunno, it just seemed confusing rather than elegant. I figured at first that this was just an oversight - that perhaps they performed so much that it was too expensive to afford super nice clothing all the time. Then I realized after the sheet music came out that no, they just weren't professionals.

It's all good though, the music was still great to listen to, and I enjoyed it.

Admittedly though, as soon as the second duo came out, this was clearly where it was at.

Hong Kong P and I noticed the violinist's shoes first (it was a man this time, the only male musician of the evening). He had the strangest accent, and despite having a Finnish name, looked somewhat Asian in origin. His shoes were black patent leather with bows. They were slip-ons. Not sure I've ever seen men's dress shoes that have looked this way before. I liked them though, either way. :)

He and his partner were fantastic. No sheet music, played from the soul. This was music that I could, and very much did, lose myself in.

Some of it I even recognized (though I would be at loss to tell you what it was called or who it was by). All of the pieces they played were introduced by the violinist, as though specially picked just for us. Many of them were pieces that were special - ones written by female composers or were the only ones of their kind written by famous other words, the ones usually forgotten by time. It was wonderful.

Their set lasted for longer than was planned. They just kept playing. "One more..well, just this one more," was the violinist's catch phrase. And it was glorious. They played so much that his violin bow lost several hairs. I was impressed.

Did I mention that this was entirely free as well? Made it even better than it already was. :) Free music in an awesome location. YES Helsinki, your Design Capital status was just raised by a tiny smidgen.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Coming to America!

Finally, after almost 6 months of being away...I will be returning to the Motherland.

Yes, that's right folks, I'll be coming to America. California, specifically. To my hometown.

Admittedly it's for a business trip, but I'll take whatever I can get (and it's lovely to have someone else pay for it, 'cause man does it get expensive).

What will I do when I get there?

  • Eat all of the delicious food that I am otherwise deprived of
  • Walk around in tshirts and shorts because likely the weather will still be warmer than anything I've experienced all summer in Finland
  • Buy food at ridiculous times of the night just because I can 
  • Go shopping because everything is cheap
Yes it's true, I will likely do all of the capitalistic things that one should try to steer clear from (for general health and well-being reasons) when coming to America.

I will now take this opportunity to shout a ridiculous quote from that god awful movie, "Team America: World Police":

America, f*ck yeah!

(Btw this will likely mean a hiatus from writing for about a week...perhaps two. Apologies for that ^_^).

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Another chance at pizza

I know I've likely talked about pizza here before, but pizza is somewhat odd here. Whoever thought pizza should be migrated over here from various places (Italy, America...wherever else pizza is bastardized and appropriately localized), obviously took some notes and then burned them.

What most people call "pizza" here is an indecent facsimile. I mean, it has all the right things for one to generally call it under the category of pizza...but somewhere along the way it goes wrong. Like it has a crust (usually quite thin, in the Italian, not Chicago style), usually tomato-sauce or something vaguely resembling it, cheese (usually mozzarella), and toppings.

Toppings. Now the toppings is generally where they get it wrong. Any Italian will tell you that. Because generally Italians only use fresh ingredients. And it doesn't have anything to do with cheese. And their pizzas are tiny. And amazing. And somehow unlike any other pizzas you'll have in your life.

But I digress.

These aren't even like American pizzas, which are slightly more similar to these than Italian pizzas. We do do our pizzas with the thicker crust, tomato sauce, cheese, and toppings. So on that note we are on the same page. But then something horribly wrong happens.

Again, the choice of toppings.

Let me demonstrate.

On a typical American pizza, our topping combinations usually go something like this:

Meat Lovers: Pepperoni, sausage, chicken, sometimes ground beef (aka: all meat).
Vegetarian: Green bell peppers (otherwise known as paprikas), onions, black olives, mushrooms (aka: all vegetables).
Hawaiian: Pineapple, ham.
Combination: Pepperoni, sausage, black olives, green bell peppers, onions (aka: combo of meat and veggies).

That's usually as far as it goes. You could have some fancier variations too such as:

The Great White: Chicken, alfredo sauce instead of tomato sauce, garlic, onions, sometimes artichoke hearts (aka: all white).
Barbeque Chicken: Chicken, onions, barbeque sauce instead of tomato sauce, bell peppers.
The Santa Fe: Chicken, corn, onions, bell peppers, cheddar cheese and Monterey jack cheese in addition to the normal cheese.

But we're getting into the gourmet section now. You see my point. Basically the sauce changes and you get a fancier selection of toppings. Most nicer pizza places serve these though and they're usually quite good.

Anyhow, Finland somehow got it wrong. Instead of going with the normal combinations of toppings (American or Italian...Italian being something to do with fresh mozzarella, olive oil, pancetta, tomato sauce, basil, or fresh tomatoes), their standby is instead:

pineapple, bleu cheese, meat.

What in god's name?!

Who got the wrong memo?!

Surprisingly this is actually a very decent flavor combination (I've had it once or twice now...purely out of curiosity) but it is quite odd. Especially since bleu cheese is featured almost nowhere else in their normal cuisine. I just wonder who thought up such a thing. Probably someone with a wrong shipment of ingredients. Or someone starving. Or someone who liked to play practical jokes and then found out it was marketable.

In any case, I tend to shy away from pizza here, since it is so generally unsatisfying in comparison to my experiences with my hometown counterparts.

But every once in awhile I crack. And last weekend I cracked. I almost ordered the steak instead, but after my last experience with "steak" (aka the thinnest piece of beef I've seen outside of a pho bowl), I decided to give pizza a chance again.

This one even had something resembling combination on the menu:

Actually that's a lie. I ordered a vegetarian pizza and asked for an extra topping of chicken on it. But whatever, the result is relatively close to the same. Or so I hoped.

This pizza in it of itself was alright. Not great, again, but not a horrendous substitute if pizza was what I was really going for. It had all the right things going for it - olives, chicken, red bell peppers, artichoke hearts, mozzarella, tomato sauce.

I have to admit though, there really is still something missing from these pizzas here. I just can't put my finger on it. Maybe it's just that they're not greasy enough or something. I dunno.

I ate about 1/3 of it before not being hungry anymore (that's how my eating tends to go here: I stop being hungry after awhile instead of being satisfied and full). I packed it up and had two meals' worth of food over the next week.

At 13euros you really can't argue with the value of pizzas, that's something I'll say. And this was one of the better pizzas I'd had - at least it was the most like home that I'd had so far. :)

I'll still keep my search up for the perfect pizza. They do have Pizza Hut here (gosh I know, of all the pizza chains to bring over from the States...they had to choose Pizza Hut...~_~ downright embarrassing...couldn't they have at least chosen Papa John's or something?). From my perusal of their outside menu they've decided to market it as the classy fancy pizza in town and it serves beer and wine along with desserts. I just find this confusing instead of appealing. Perhaps I will break sometime soon and try it anyway. I imagine it would be quite good. We'll see though.

Until next time, pizza craving, until next time...

Monday, September 10, 2012

Going cuckoo at Kuukuu

There are several restaurants down the street from where I live, and I've only been slowly getting around to eating at them.

Shameful, I know.

Fully aware that I should hop to it and actually try them, my girlfriends German K and Hong Kong P suggested we eat dinner at Kuukuu (pronounced just like "cuckoo"...which is oddly pronounced "koo-koo"...unlike how it's spelled...silly English), which is literally a block from my place. (Btw my friends both live within 2-3 blocks of me as well, so it's not like they had to go far either...yet they still bicycled from their apartments anyway...something I made fun of them for).

We arrived in style after a luxuriously slow-paced day of sauna and sleeping, and had an equally slow and luxurious meal. I think we spent 4 hours eating, laughing, and generally having a good time. Needless to say, I would recommend Kuukuu (which hilariously translates to "Moon Moon") to everyone.

Being generally starved of good food and wanting to try everything under the sun, I didn't order an appetizer, but instead snarfed on the free bread and delicious dill butter spread that was provided:

Delicious and wonderful. Dill is one of those extremely prominent items's the parsley of Finland. The bread here is pretty fantastic as well, which is something to say since I generally don't care about bread as a food group.

Next came the main course - Hong Kong P and I both ordered the hare after having it recommended by our waiter (who didn't really recommend much...not to say nothing on the menu was good but this tends to be a trend among waiters here...they don't know what to say when you ask them what is good).

I don't recall ever having hare in my life, but it was actually very strange. And tasty.

Sort of like the texture of ahi tuna and something with soft tendons mixed together with the flavor of venison. To be honest the thing that surprised me the most was that it was rare - I had no idea you could cook a meat like that and leave it not cooked all the way through. Knowing my penchant for bloody meats it was wonderful to find this out, but it was still a bit shocking.

Needless to say Hong Kong P was not particularly fond of this meat and I got a piece of hers as well as mine.

The mushrooms (chanterelles and assorted others) were to die for. I sopped up the mushroom sauce with the remaining bread from the bread basket.

Paired with this lovely dish was a recommended chianti, which I sipped with delight and vigor. Very well matched.

And for dessert? A dessert menu that I was actually able to eat every single item off of (this is a complete rarity):

No chocolate, no hidden ricotta cheesecake...I was impressed. I'm sure it was a fluke of some kind, but I will definitely take what I can get. :)

And this will be no surprise to anyone who knows my love of cheese (minus ricotta), I ordered the dessert cheese plate. It's something I almost never get to order (because no one wants to share it with me), but it's something I always not-so-secretly desire in the depths of my heart. I absolutely love cheese (as you could probably tell by now) and where else am I going to get quality cheese but at a quality restaurant? It even had a matching port to go with it! (One of my absolute favorite alcoholic drinks!)

Waiter, I'd like to order three, I mean one of the cheese plates, please!

And so cheese plate it was:

Fabulous it was also. Surprisingly the most disappointing one on the plate was the middle one on the left - the softest one. It was ripe and creamy, as you'd expect it to be, but the least powerful. The white one on the top had little bits of fennel seeds in it with a delightfully creamy texture not unlike salted butter that's been fridged for a little bit. The bottom one was definitely my favorite. Salty, heady, pungent, and deadly flavorful. I took the smallest bites possible to savor it for as long as possible. Needless to say this little plate (with fig jam and little cracker) took me about 40 minutes to eat. That's no lie.

Naturally the port also slowed me down.

First glass of port I've had since moving to Finland, and boy was it fine. I don't even remember what kind it was (it's printed on the menu), but it didn't even matter. Port, after being starved from it for so long, is glorious in all its forms. I've since had two other kinds (while on a birthday pub crawl nonetheless), but this one will remain special for me. Plus I can walk down the street from my apartment and get it whenever I want. ;)

Thus rounded out a genuinely satisfying and wonderful meal. And it wasn't even indecently expensive - just 48euros or so. Not bad, really. Would do it again in a heartbeat.

So if you come and visit me and we want to pick up something relatively casual, I'd probably take you to Kuukuu, glorious and close as it is. YES food glory, you're so close to where I live! :D

Friday, September 7, 2012

Living in Arkadia

...or at least as close to living in it as I can get.

Admittedly as soon as I found Arkadia (the used bookstore I've mentioned before), I knew I would be going back, and very soon.

Actually I went back back a few days later, as I told trade in my beloved books to get the books I had put aside.

...needless to say, there were even more wonders to behold the second time I was there. And I am too much in love not to share them with you. (Please excuse the subsequent gushing).

I woke up early on Saturday morning, wondering what I would do until I could reasonably walk down the few blocks between my apartment and my beloved. It was a sunny day, with just the faintest of breezes blowing. In other words, it was perfect.

I gathered my books (having resisted for the last several days from snatching them off my shelf and preparing them) and set off with my stash in tow, swinging my hips the whole way there.

I arrived there before I knew it, aware of the song in my heart as I hummed some nameless tune.

I met the other owner of the shop, the husband to the woman I had met there on Thursday. His name is Ian. He's British but has lived basically everywhere. He also speaks more languages than I can remember (including French and several others I heard him speak).

We did the trade - I gave him 8 of my paperbacks for the 2 large hardbacks and 1 paperback I had put aside. It was an even trade. No money was exchanged. The weight in my bag was about the same.

He then told me to take a look around, go all the way around the shop, all the way to the back, explore, feel everything, peek into every corner, take a nap. The shop was my home. And it felt like it really was. I was home.

I thanked him profusely and proceeded to take my time wandering around the shop and feel the place out once again. It's one of the places I feel absolutely comfortable in. It's beautiful there. I took more pictures (the first post was pictures from their website...admittedly I was too embarrassed and deep in conversation to take photos).

Somewhere in the basement (there is no second floor, only a floor below), I took to exploring the deeper caverns of my new wonder place...and this is what I found:

A little room that had the oldest books I had seen (well, for this shop, anyway), and a little table with wine and bread.

Take as much as you like, but bring your dirty dishes up, and donate what you like.

I started to notice that the place was sprinkled with little alcoves like these. Food and drink that you could take what you needed. Games that you could play along with books next to them to teach you if you didn't know and wanted to learn.

The place is just inviting, everywhere. Spend time here, sit down, take a nap, eat, play, read. Look around you. Find your nook. No one will disturb you if you don't want.

There were endless (well, not really, but quite a few) rooms like these. Little spaces you could tuck yourself away in and lose yourself in a new favorite book. I was enchanted.

I was so enchanted, in fact, that I spent two hours there by accident.

Not that I had to go anywhere, but just wandering around, looking at things, being amazed...well, it took my breath away.

And I found more books to buy. Two more, in fact. They cost me 11euros total. I bought them and put them together with my others and pretended that my trade was 8 books for 5 books, costing 11euros. The trade sounds better that way. :)

Anyhoo, here are some more pics of my exploration of Arkadia. Rooms and rooms of books, glorious books. There is even a great room called the "warehouse" where you can go and sort through books yourself (they're not sorted that much). I loved was like treasure hunting. Generally speaking they're categorized but other than that...up to you!

Isn't it wonderful? :)

Clearly going to be here often.

...I've already finished 2 books more since I've been there. It's only been 4 days. I'm about to finish a third.

And thus the book lust continues...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A night of witchcraft

Apparently one night of the year Helsinki lets its denizens stay up and out a little bit longer. The Night of the Arts.

Being a complete noob to the city I had no idea this existed until it was already into the night (admittedly I was being a nerd and reading the first part of the evening, waiting for Hong Kong P to get out of a dance class so we could watch some dominoes fall in the Senate Square... ...I'm actually not kidding). Little did I know, that original plan to watch giant dominoes was part of the Night of the Arts and just someone had failed to send me the original memo.

As luck would have it, we missed that event (something something lazy and having to work late, misunderstandings and no big deals), so Hong Kong P suggested I look at the event page and pick something else for us to do for the night.

Ohhhh smorgasbord.

I had no idea that the Night of the Arts was so big. But man, it was big. Basically every art gallery, museum, live play, fashion house, or anything to do with arts of any kind (and even some that had nothing to do with arts) was doing something that day/evening/night. Take a look for yourself:

Night of the Arts List

Massivore of a list.

So I started scrolling, and 20 minutes later when she called me to ask what I wanted to do...I still hadn't finished looking through everything.

But at the very least I had seen two things that had caught my eye: the first was a festivus of weird religious arts at the Russian Orthodox Church (that's just what I do...can't stay away from cathedrals to save my life, haha), and the second was a very weird exploration of the dark underbelly of electronica.

Hong Kong P was clearly more interested in the second (most people of sound mind would be..well, actually now that I look at that...probably debatable).

So we met at a cafe and waited for Finnish J, then set off to HÄXXXAN (seriously, that's what it was called...which is oddly pronounced, "hacks-on"...not how I imagined it).

The Facebook event for this page described it as thus: "Inspired by Benjamin Christensen’s 1922 silent film HÄXAN – Witchcraft Through the Ages we present you an audiovisual journey to the dark side of the human mind, from the dark middle ages to the midst of a modern dystopian landscape."

Clearly artsy-fartsy talk for, "we will set up a projector screen in the middle of the industrial section of town and play dark electronica."

And that's exactly what they did.

And it was actually pretty cool. Or at least the music was. Deep, ambient, it reminded me of a lot of the music I used to listen to during my more contemplative years of high school. Very cool stuff. And it was all being done live - there was a woman singer and her accompanying DJ mixing it all right there. None of this premixed stuff.

The audiovisual accompaniment, on the other hand, was a bit lackluster and cheesy. "Inspired" was very loosely meant. If this was from the 1922 silent film then it only took the parts that had dialogue because most of the visuals were clearly from badly done softcore burlesque porn and homemade witchcraft videos which were montages of various blinking eyes, hands, and candles. The only parts of the film that were recognizable were the occasional bits of dialogue (since it was a silent film the screen sometimes flashed things like, "Release thee of the devil!" and such) or clips of priests or nuns looking surprised. Not particularly related, if you ask me.

But the experience was still very cool. There was a small fire poi show as we arrived and generally speaking people got into dancing once the music hit a certain chord. It was located near where Flow Festival had taken place, though more out in the middle of the rubble of construction, which is apparently where a coffee shop (fairly well known) usually resides during the day (though I could see no hint of it that night).

All in all a very excellent time. We took the metro home and chittered amongst ourselves about how glad we were to have seen it.

Thanks Night of the Arts, for showing me something new. :)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Beef, it's what's for dinner

...or at least infrequently it is.

Beef is one of those things that's surprisingly difficult to get here in Finland. For whatever reason pork and sausage (more like hotdogs, rather than what I normally consider sausages, which would involve a casing with ground up meat inside) reign supreme here. One can also find chicken, but it involves marinade (almost always), and I am one who always cooks and marinades herself, so chicken has almost never been bought. Fish of course, is also major on everyone's menu.

So usually when I go out to eat (which is also infrequent, because it's so damned expensive here and there are few casual mid-range restaurants here), I usually get beef. I miss beef. As an American, beef is pretty stock standard. Steak is major, and well...I love me a good steak.

So when a near-friend suggested dinner last week, I accepted. When I saw steak was on the menu, I accepted even more.

What I got was a little different than I expected, though I will say my expectations were tempered.

Thin steak! What is this?!

It was literally like 1/4 of an inch thick (we're talking about 4 millimeters thick). I've never seen such a thin steak.

This didn't make it bad, mind you, just unusual. I'm used to thick thick steaks...the kind where you have to cut extra thin slices for yourself so you can actually put it in your mouth.

And admittedly I love to eat steaks incredibly rare, almost blue. I want to see the blood running all over my plate. Some people think this is horrendously gross and animalistic...but hell, that's just the way I am. I usually order it by saying something like, "if you could just wave it over the flames and give it to me that's good enough" or "if it's not still mooing, it's not rare enough." Just the way that I am.

Anyway, this one was surprisingly tender, and thankfully not overcooked. They didn't bother asking me how I wanted it cooked (no one has bothered asking me such things at any restaurant I've been to thusfar). It was just a little weird. But I still enjoyed it.

Generally speaking I don't think it's something I would order again. To be honest I just don't think I can really qualify this as steak in my mind. It just...doesn't count somehow. Sure it's still beef, but I's like it's missing something from its essence. Some beefiness that should be there but isn't. I dunno, it made me feel unfulfilled, even though I was not hungry anymore.

And that made me a little sad.

Plus at 17euros it wasn't exactly cheap for what it was. The restaurant and decor was casual enough, but there was nothing particularly casual about this.

Sorry Bar9, but you will likely not be frequented again.

Monday, September 3, 2012

For the bibliophiles

Because I know I'm one and this touches my soul like almost nothing else has. The things in Finland that come to mind that come even remotely close: the Hesburger Nacho Grande (still godly, in my opinion), the Academic Bookstore (has books in 5 different languages and where I bought the fifth Game of Thrones book after I had gone through the 3 books I had brought with me but before my shipping container of additional books had arrived), and probably Kuurna and Coma, where I had my birthday dinners with my family members.

That incredible to me.

After vaguely wondering if I would ever find a place to trade all of the books I have been reading (the pile has been getting quite high...since I moved here I've read 11's been less than 5 months and I took a month do the math), I have found it. I have found my new mecca.

It's called Arkadia Oy International Bookshop. (Which actually just means Arkadia Company International Bookshop, but you get the point).

And it's absolutely beautiful.

After some hearty searching on the interwebs and posting on the expat forums to see if other people knew where I could buy/sell/trade used paperbacks and hardbacks in English, I came up with very little. No one on the forums commented on my posts (only the admins did and all they said was that I could post listings for my books on the forum to see if anyone was interested) and my search at first didn't yield any good results - only for bookstores that sold new books.

And although I like new books as much as the next person, what I really crave is used books. Used books have a soul that I can only describe as...well, familiar. Books that have seen history, and experience. You can't take a new book with you and not worry about it (or at least I can't). You can't just throw it in a bag and treat it with the same adoration and belonging as with a book that has seen time and wear. Anyway, here in Finland, the price difference is also pretty huge. And I don't want to afford new books every time I want to read something new.

Plus I brought over a lot of books. We're talking somewhere in the 60-70 book range. All of which I haven't read. This is on purpose - I read (a lot), and I just don't have the space in my tiny (read: 30 square meter/300+ square foot) apartment to have books I've already read. Sure I'll keep the ones that make a permanent impression on me but generally speaking that's only 1-3 books a year (which is maybe 5-10% of the books I read). Bottomline: there's no room for books I've already read.

So, when I finally found the website for Arkadia, my hopes soared. Had I finally found my new Pennywise Books? (Background: Pennywise was my godsend in San Diego...I went every 6 months or so to trade my 15-20 books and refresh my supply...the owner was a grumpy old man who rarely said anything to me, but I loved his shop...I'd spend hours there).

Admittedly with the way life has been and my schedule, it took me awhile to get to the actual place, even after I found the website. The tab for the page stayed open in my browser for a solid week or two before I finally had enough time in my schedule to make it there and map it appropriately.

But map it I did, and one day, when taking a break from the LGN plan (I had run and gymmed three days in a row), I walked there after work.

As soon as I saw the sign (which was in English), I got excited. I had to stop myself from skipping/running across the street in a mad dash to get inside and see what I could have discovered.

But it would have made no difference. It was paradise.

Simple, covered ceiling to floor in books (glorious books), and furnished for reading, free tea and coffee...ah, I could stay here for hours.

And I did.

Actually as soon as I walked in the door I promptly met the owner (or one of the owners, it's a husband and wife pair, but only the wife was there that day, the husband being at their other location, which sells antique books). I asked her about buying and trading books and we got into a very long chat.

She was very amused by me (I mean how often does a Finnish person meet a Californian who is absolutely batshit insane about books?...and is willing to talk about them for minutes if not hours on end?...apparently not very often) and we quickly became acquainted.

In fact we became so acquainted that I've been offered the chance to speak at one of their events (they host a few events in their stores every month). I politely declined, saying that I had no interest in speaking to the public about anything (generally speaking this is true), but thought it was interesting nonetheless. I'll check out their events either way, and have happily added my email to their mailing list.

After we talked for what seemed like 20 minutes but what was likely more like an hour, she said I should take a look around the shop and set aside anything I liked. Since I didn't have any of my books to trade with me (since I wanted to find out first if they would trade in the first place), she said she would hold them for me until I could come back.

So browse I did...for several hours.

And got three books to set aside. I consciously stopped myself from browsing further because I know myself all too well and I could have gone on for much much longer.

They have books in other languages, other than English and Finnish - they also have German, French, and Spanish, as well as other languages I didn't look that closely at. They have books of all kinds - fiction, nonfiction, true crime, travel books, cook books, books on music, nature, food...any niche subject you might be interested. It was fascinating. Like being in an antique store and finding all the sparkling treasures of old...except nothing here was old (I also love antique stores...can you tell?).

I walked back to the front and handed the owner my three books and we set a date for Saturday (it being a Thursday) so I could come back and trade in my books (I have 8 sitting in my apartment, my parents having taken some back with them to the States, since I'd already read them).

I absolutely cannot wait to be back on Saturday. I've had to stop myself from gathering my books and putting them in my book bag simply because it's ridiculous. I should be able to control myself like an adult and pack my books at the appropriate time.

But it's true I can't keep myself from grinning. I am so absolutely thrilled to have found a place to bring my books to.