Tuesday, June 30, 2009

on returning.

lexi asked me a while ago whether i could write about returning home after spending time abroad. since i have always come back home between my visits, my experiences are probably different from those who spend years as expats.

the shortest of the visits i count as "spending time" (rather than just traveling) abroad was a four-month summer job in london. the longest is slightly over a year. my visits have spread over fifteen years and, therefore, my interpretations and experiences are fairly age-bound.

since i'm not exactly sure how to approach the topic, i'll perform a pseudo-interview consisting of questions posed to me by different people when i've returned.

don't you hate noticing how small finland is? as much as i could start lamenting on how depressing it is to return to finland and the tiny little circles of people we deal with here, the fact remains that social circles seem to be almost as small everywhere else you go. the universal capability of people to form a significant relationship with only a limited number of people applies in london, new york city and helsinki alike. our yearning to live amongst people we relate to creates small villages and communities of people inside metropolitan areas: i actually think my neighborhood in willyburg felt more like a community than my hood in helsinki. then again, i hardly ever feel annoyed by bumping into the same people regularly; if anonymity is your thing, then a larger city provides more opportunitites to go incognito.

have you noticed problems with language? this was apparent after my year in toronto. it was the first time i spent several months abroad and i had virtually no finnish contacts. a time of no e-mail and expensive global calls, i spoke my native tongue rarely. i returned with deteriorated finnish which i hated because writing was extremely important to me, and i value our rare linguistic background. more frustrating was to note that my english wasn't exactly impressive either. it was the first time i realized it was extremely easy to slide into a state of poor bilingualism. as a partial solution, i bought thesauruses in both languages and still try to use them regularly.

my accent (or actually lack of) has created more trouble. i have always sounded native as an english speaker and am never mistaken for a foreigner. it has created embarrassing situations with slang recognition and in academic situations where i sound "stupid" because of my comparatively limited active vocabulary. as a finn i tend to use more anglicisms than the average person which i find equally embarrassing and a sign of a poor grasp of lexis.

are there characteristics you find incomprehensible in finns after being away? rudeness: the fact that people stop and stare at you when you try to pass them in crowded spaces uttering an apology. the fact that they rarely apologize after bumping or stomping on you. the fact that apologies are often met with rude remarks. incredible, really.

uncompromising law-obedience: after returning from nyc i walked to a zebra crossing in turku. the red light was on, there were people standing waiting and there were absolutely no cars in sight. a fleeting thought passed my mind that perhaps they knew something i didn't, an inconceivable and invisible threat perhaps, but the second passed and i realized that they were just standing there because of the red light. as i crossed there was a disapproving murmur. hilarious.

rigid ageism: finns seem incredibly intolerant when it comes to behavior, looks and interests that are atypical for a certain age group. this observation may come from the fact that the cities i've lived in are metropolitan areas with global immigrant populations and inhabitants from such a variety of backgrounds that individuality is not sneered upon, and it may well be that the same type of intolerance applies in every country's smaller towns. nonetheless, it is too common that i hear people disapprove of someone choosing something because they are "too old". it saddens me.

i think many of the cultural habits that annoy me nowadays come down to the fact that we're just used to an incredible amount of personal space. not having a translation for "excuse me" kinda points out the obvious, but i am looking forward to a more crowded finland and the cultural development that brings.

any things you value more after being back? modesty: there is a perk to our non-boastful egos. although people are exactly as shallow and egocentric as the next person, we make our judgments without the need to act pompous everywhere. i found it almost degrading when i noticed that in order to have colleagues at columbia pay attention to me i had to utter an abstract cv of my career highlights. it could have been the environment of ruthless ivy league competition, but it feels inhuman to begin from an assumption that people should actively prove their worthiness before being allowed any time socially.

equality in healthcare: my worry over the slow vanishing of the social state grows more intense every moment because of my experiences in countries where economic classes are further apart than in finland. i have seen a roommate travel the subway with a cracked skull after being run over by a taxi while riding his bike on manhattan and waking up in the hospital realizing that being unemployed he cannot afford the bills. his irrationality was not odd, but the fact that he was allowed to leave strikes me as unfathomable. moreover, i have witnessed a friend move to another state to have an operation on his knee because california hospitals are too expensive and his medical insurance won't cover it. moving meant having to quit college and spending his savings on rent and hospital bills.

what was the hardest part in adjusting when back? the fact that people's lives go on regardless of whether you're around or not. thus, feelings of being outside after returning are plentiful. sometimes as short a break as a few months can eradicate a friendship although i'm sure it's rare. there is no amount of story-telling that can compensate the lack of social interaction while away: people grow tired of your anecdotes and feel hesitant of repeating their daily activities.

after a while the time away feels like a social burden you carry with you and hide because it can grown into an annoying bubble your friends ultimately cannot relate to. in the end, your time away is insignificant to even the closest of your friends. personally i felt physical pain after i had to return from nyc and realized i was alone with my yearning. the result was an incredible bitch of a person i am glad is (hopefully) gone...

hopefully i dealt with some of the thoughts lexi hoped i'd clarify. if any of you want to know more, feel free to ask and i look forward to hearing your own experiences. as a finishing note, here's a brilliant new single by holy ghost! called "i will come back".

summer shoulders.

hooray for shoulder pads! for someone like myself who hasn't been blessed with neither a sleek constructed shoulder line nor with the muscular phenomena going on around jennifer garner's clothes hanger (hello! i want that curve!), padding works miracles without looking too ott 80's.

but since i feel fondly about spacey garments and odd shapes, my choice of pads may be more star trek than average. i found this amazing gareth pugh-like cotton dress from h&m divided exclusive line (say what?). stuck in a lonely corner the short rack held a pretty flowery body and a really inviting grey stretch silk dress with ruffles just waiting to be grabbed. but i composed myself and took home only the white space uniform. the sun playing lady gaga on my head just accentuates the ethereal feel i get from wearing this dress.

a little on the short side, i will probably reserve combining it with chunky heels to late at night and stick to flats during the day.

finding the dress reminded me of another little piece i love because of the summery shoulder action: a (play?)jumpsuit from the 80's i bought three years ago from uff. i found it during my rummage through some storage boxes (see, there was color!) and just waited for the heat and some tan to kick in. the fact that i cannot decide whether it is phenomenally ugly or just incredibly cool is probably the reason i love it.

the coral color in combination with curve accentuation looks almost pretty, but the backside definitely reminds one of the downsides of jumpsuits: there isn't one that does not flatten and lengthen the booty. so, call me miss coral longbottom then.
are you fond of shoulder action?

Friday, June 26, 2009


since every day is not an urban beach bum day, i need a respectable look as well. silk is easy and light and as a short dress carries from day till night.

i am not usually a fan of filippa k, but this silk number with ink splashes that resemble a birch camoflage struck me as the perfect dress for both summer and winter. add my office chimera sandal/boots and i'm ready to stroll the streets endlessly.

i also felt like wearing a necklace. not big on accessories and, especially, not exactly excited about pearls, i find this silver and pearl hand by kiwi karen walker beautiful, sensitive and fresh. it's a less rough version of the hand in daniel palillo and lauri johansson collaboration.

enjoy the heat! now i need to get dressed for a wedding...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

succexy again.

there is something endearing about the perfect pop song. metric has created a bunch of them, such as "combat baby" on their debut album from 2004. now emily haines (also a member of broken social scene) is back leading her pack with another song that has just the perfect combo of pop sensibility, clear melody and bellowing guitars. it is a simple summer song that will please for years to come. her look of au naturel hair, silver sequins and denim isn't too bad, either.

here's "sick muse". enjoy.

feeling proud?

it is gay pride week in helsinki this week. for those of my readers who fundamentally do not understand why lgbt-people think it is cool to prance around the streets once a year, i could always point out that the rest of the 364 days of the year are reserved for hetero pride. it does not seem to occur to many people that such elementary gestures as holding hands and kissing in public still arouse staring, mockery and violence on our streets if the couple are not of the opposite sex. the basic safety people usually associate with showing affection or communicating with their families is still threatened in non-heterosexual families. it is disturbing.

the origins of gay pride stem from violence. known as the stonewall riots in 1969, the gay community of nyc stood up repeatedly and violently against police persecution after an early morning police raid at stonewall inn in greenwich village. it was almost exactly 40 years ago, and lots of improvements have been made whilst many basic issues remain unsolved. the term 'pride' signifies an opposition to 'gay shame' promoted by many people who wish lgbt-people stayed closeted. the yearly pride weeks are not only carnivals and parties, but also important reminders of a reality not yet a history.

although pride week may seem to some like an in-your-face harassment of hetero-sensibilities, it is not an event the whole lgbt-community embraces. obviously for many the events are just tacky parties with crappy music. also many members of the gay community agree that a closeted or a quiet gay reality is better: keeping private matters private. at the other side is the queer pink block that sees pride as a celebration of gentrification and giving in to heteronormativity. both views are understandable. out'n'proud actions often invite negative consequences -- sometime personal losses. the queer radicals see all of society as distorted and do not want the lgbt-community to start acting "straight" because it would imply an acceptance of hetero-society's norms as just.

i believe everyone has the right to keep their closet door tightly shut if they wish so. the public political debate in finland is still too laden with gay-hatred and ignorance that it is understandable that someone does not want their share of it. then again a mass coming-out event would show quite a different side of our society to those who are drawn to bigotry and hatred.

i also think queer politics have a point: the present social order is everything but pleasant. people are blind to the variety of sexuality even within heterosexuality thinking it gives them a right to marginalize people, and they seem oblivious to the restrictive ideals heteronormativity holds true. the pink block wants to remind people that lgbt-lives are still very much stigmatized and gay shame is very much alive; a viewpoint that sometimes seems born in a privileged theoretical position, since it does not seem that most attendees of gay pride thought their lives were without stigma or shame even nowadays -- gay shame is the reason gay pride happens, right? i just do not quite grasp how detrimental a week of celebration is for a queer future even if the main message of pride was that the gay community is a group of ordinary citizens with ordinary problems in addition to being marginalized in a society that rests on ideals oppressive (albeit not equally) to all.

that said, i am happy to say that i'm participating in the pride week at the wedding of two friends: tomorrow a dear couple of boys are saying their vows and we'll party till early morning. no matter how i twist it i cannot see their act as something they ought to hide or as a sign of submission to requirements of normalcy. knowing their history and the troubles they've suffered, i can only interpret their promise to each other as a single act of bravery, courageous and deserving of great pride.

here's lily allen having her say at homophobics all over the world. not the subtlest of lyrical expressions, but at least her point is loud and clear...

urban beach bum.

finally the heat has reached the city. i am not necessarily a worshipper of ra, but, boi, do i enjoy the warmth.

i moved my office outside to our balcony/terrace and have been squinting away at the screen. we have sun from early morning till early afternoon and i've been immersing the rays every morning. yeah, tanning is hugely detrimental to your health, but my oily skin loves some drying heat. i'm being safe, i assure you and my proneness to sun strokes adds the requirement of headgear.

since i don't frequent a regular office, my daily outfits are dictated by my whims. and whimsical i have been trying out old new things and feeling faint after just putting something on. yeah, i lurve me some heat.

the hot sun brings out the beach bum that out of necessity translates to an office bum with glasses and all. nevertheless, i find dressing in hot weather a nuisance because i feel uneasy with most summer looks: girly dresses easily appear drag-like on me, hippie chic is out of the question and denim is just too blah. i want combinations that spell out "holiday!" and are fit for city streets. again from my "archives" i found these ensembles: only the monki top and the camper sandals are new, everything else is several years old.

in my little world, it is officially summer when i begin wearing bikini tops as bras. although i don't usually wear anything sheer, the bald head feels like an allowance for transparency i'd otherwise consider too tarty; therefore the soft, sheer tee. the pale pink and soft pouchy bag feminize the ensemble that would require a constructed jacket or bottom to look appropriate for anything less leisurely. it's my softie look for a very laidback home office...

today i'm running errands in the city, but since it is my day off, i'm sticking to the beach bum softness. the monki top was a curiosity buy: i usually steer clear of loosely falling tops because they easily make me look top heavy and droopy chested. tying it to the side helps ever so slightly, but it is the neckline detailing that compels me to ignore the boob effect: i absolutely fell in love with the fabric rope. it could be my serious horatio caine face or something else, but i am battling with the little boy effect this urban sailor-stranded-on-a-beach look insinuates. see, the bald is still creating trouble...

how do you create your city suave unofficial looks?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

femme fatale.

both anna and anu have considered what it means to be feminine and womanly. my style selves may be multiple, but the primary axis my style ponderings revolve around is femininity. since the notions of feminine versus masculine and womanhood have been and are being analyzed by more scholars than i can count as i write this, i will say very little of generalizable ideas, but will concentrate on my subjective experience and thoughts.

as someone who takes her pomo seriously, i do not believe in a biological basis of womanhood. (and no, i do not mean that we are not bodily beings and that i don't have ovaries; i just do not think it has much to do with how we understand what a woman is or should be.) what we understand as feminine is a culturally produced performative, an active partaking in the repetition of actions and styles categorized as feminine and masculine. and, yes, we do perform the masculine as well to create an intelligible feminine, because a binary is not comprehensible without it's negation.

my upbringing was not traditional although it probably wasn't atypical for mid-seventies: my mother steered clear of creating pressure for traditional expressions of femininity and made sure i never felt certain things were out of my reach because i was a girl. i was a tomboy princess with a vivid imagination.

from very early on, i was aware that i wasn't a pretty girl. i was the kid with a thin angular face who was congratulated because of her wits or talent, but was never the object of cooing or admiring pinches on cheeks. i claim that being pretty or ugly is both a culturally objective state but also a subjective way of being, and i've never associated myself with being pretty. it does not mean that someone might not think i was pretty or beautiful or that i had never heard of such a thing. neither does it imply that i didn't want to be considered pretty. to put it bluntly: being pretty does not imply feeling it and vice versa, and part of our identity is a reference to a level of prettiness, i think.

physically i grew into a gawky teen. i was extremely thin, myopic and had bad skin. lack of body fat translated into a late bloomer and i think i got boobs around my 18th bday. luckily i wasn't teased (at least to my face) so my feelings of not fitting in were the result of self-observation rather than being cast out.

my subjective experience of being a teenage girl was based on being recognized as one by men (on which i congratulated myself) and comparing myself with the confessions my friends made about their experiences. i grew into a woman who bases a fairly insignificant part of her self-esteem on looks and, simultaneously, takes a relatively large amount of time and effort to think about the exterior.

since i was a little girl i was fond of fashion. i left school one day on the third grade because i felt nausea over socks that didn't match my outfit. ever since then i knew not to leave the house unless properly dressed; if it didn't feel right, i knew my day would be ruined. it still applies to a certain extent. this, by no means, meant that my taste or desire for expression was anywhere near conservative.

as a person who keenly observes i soon became aware of how looks could be utilized: i taught myself the rules of seduction and coarseness, and was capable of changing a look from approachable to hostile with a few carefully chosen accessories. i have probably tried almost every single look and made it work. the chameleon is everything but extinct from my being, but has become subtler with time.

the last ten years or so i've hovered around similar styles of expression. my personal look has become a careful balancing of feminine and masculine, usually pushing it slightly towards überfemme by utilizing masculine codes. because what is the ultimate femininity if not a combination of both binary elements with an added strength often associated with masculinity? sure, creating femininity with feminine signifiers works and is often recognized as safe and comforting. but a play of opposites can fortify the intended effect to an extent that reveals the artificiality of the performative. in my case i've never felt the need to push the boundaries away from a recognizable woman, though, but have been seen as a little boy more than once in my life.

to sum it up, i don't do obvious femininity or cute. i am not girly nor am i very soft. on a more subjective level i have felt uneasy with a traditionally feminine or classic style. perhaps it comes down to my face: if everything else in my appearance is feminine and balanced, my face which isn't exactly feminine becomes exaggeratedly not so. in plain english, i look like the ugly girl i am. i also realized that the most conservative (and boring) of men are drawn towards the safely unattractive but feminine girl. sorry boys, you're predictable...

my interpretation of my uneasiness with my looks is most prominent in my longing for androgyny: with long hair i've felt the need to cover up my body which is recognizably womanly and curvy these days. an integral part of me wants to deny an obvious femininity by disturbing the whole. by cutting of my mane, i can deal with my physical womanly features better. a bald head challenges the ideals of womanhood in ways that reflect the edge i require to face the world. as a choice it invites responses that are sometimes hostile (especially from older women) although positive feedback is probably more common. bravery comes up quite a bit, and it may be a bold move because the locks of a lady are one of the most prominent signifiers of femme.

but because i am not a self-sufficient being, i must reflect briefly on the most important aspect of what it means to be a feminine me. as a woman i am, and want to be, an object of desire and admiration -- and i am not saying this is a gender specific need. in my case this does not mean trying to get as many compliments from random people as i can -- quite the opposite, because i am rather selective on whose feedback i take seriously -- but having the acceptance of my nearest and dearest. before cutting my hair i shed a few tears only because my sweetie would not give a straightforward answer on my decision: my greatest fear looks-wise was that i ceased being beautiful for my loved one. it was a relief to realize that my own posture grew straighter and i saw admiration in the eyes of my sweetheart...

how we feel about ourselves as gendered beings is a reflective state of interaction with the people around us who all take part in the performative and act according to the matrix of gendered codes. ideals of beauty, motherhood, sensuality and such do not merely float in the air, but create integrally what is meaningful and intelligible about being a woman. challenging expectations in your own way force everyone around to reconsider their categories of naturalness, beauty, etc. to reveal the instability of our boxes for people.

looks do matter: essentially, politically and personally. however subtle one's reinterpretation of the matrix of gendered meanings is, i think we're quite often moving towards a less restrictive web of ideals. me thinks it's güt.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

shed it, sailor!

well, the vote was clear and so was my decision: off came the hair.
after a rather radical hair alteration it is easy to get startled with your own image. i, nevertheless, instantly "recognized" the face from years ago and felt comfy right away.

i'm sure you can relate to the feeling of novelty you get when stepping out with a new haircut for the first time. you're just that bit more self-conscious and aware of your presence. a nervous tick flicking a piece of hair to its proper place. glancing at your image in shop windows. checking that everything is all right. at home you pucker in front of the mirror and take a good critical look, you try out outfits to find which suit the new you the best. check the angles of your face. smooth and puff, scrunch and sleek. it is a very tactile process in addition to visual stimulation.

the first time out feels like homecoming. i had to dj at beatroot, so i chose something comfy and unfrilly. without actually going for it, the tattooed sailor reflected my mood perfectly: a recycled cotton tee from h&m men's department, vintage brooches on both sleeves, cheap monday jeans and a pair of zara heels i bought over a year ago but never wore before. (and, yeah, i had some trouble focusing my eyes on anything else than my camera operating hand...)

i'm definitely liking it and feel, contrary to my fears, prettier (or something like that, dunno really) than in a long while. now i just have to get used to the (positive and negative) attention again...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

neighborhood recommendation #9: the dress shop.

after ranting on an apparently sensitive topic (no comments, anyone? really. is finnish design export a taboo topic or what? am i deluded? being unfair or just plain wrong?), i want to give some credit where it belongs. still playing in the minor league both domestically and internationally, but showing true entrepreneurial spirit, real talent and affable personal service is tiia vanhatapio. her shop is just around the corner and the lady herself is often present.

she hasn't been shy to push her product for visibility and defends unapologetically her modernized retro-femme designs and, simultaneously, remains approachable and sincere. sure, i was surprised to find her collaborating with vero moda for the skunk girl -line, but the result was quite successful. she stands tall for a reason.

the iconic little black dress gets such a flattering form in the hands of ms vanhatapio that if i can think of one lbd every woman should own, it would be 'mamie'. seen on dita von teese and several finnish fashionistas, the dress is glamorous, flatters an incredible variety of body shapes (yeah, i bet you didn't think that!) and is really affordable for the quality. it is all in the cut: the corseted top defines, the skirt creates curves and there are small folds in the front, just enough to create or cover a soft feminine belly. small pockets on both sides offer an escape for anxious hands for those who might otherwise feel too exposed in the baring number. sultry, seductive, but not in the least trashy, and that's the way we like it, right?

available in a variety of sizes or made-to-measure in your chosen fabric, it is an ever versatile classic in the making. by adding ruffles to the neckline or to the pockets, the basic shape can be altered in various ways without losing it's edge.

the one i'm wearing below is a one-off in sparkly tweed with a removable belt. add a pair of marc by mj heels and even my newly shaved head (thanks for the votes, the hair is gone!) won't compromise my femininity.

if dresses aren't for you, her line of baby clothing might be something to familiarize yourself with. vraiment jolie!


the credo of finns is that we're too unaware and, especially, modest about our incredible design industry and talent. part of the official story is that because finnish design has always [sic!] revolved around functionality, we have come to embrace quality design as such an integral part of our daily lives that we forget to consider it design. the joyous gospel of finnish design needs to be preached, but we're just too humble -- unlike our neighboring swedes.

so the story goes.

lately we have been focusing on visibility. correcting history consists in creating different types of export think-tanks. finnish design "ambassadors" of various sorts are selected frequently. the punchline is that we need to start being proud of our heritage: finns need to stop acting meek and start appreciating the talent we have. finnish classics and young designers are capable and have a unique sense of aesthetic that could take over the world.

we've done beautifully domestically. i, among others, embrace these ideas on the product part. we do have amazing talent and incredibly well-crafted products. we have established houses of design and interesting young designers who deserve more attention. yay!

i just don't buy the creed behind and the execution method of our world-conquest. i, for one, have for a very long time believed that we lack the necessary courage to promote, but have been forced to re-evaluate my convictions. if it was true that finns were too modest to promote finnish design, the little birds around the world are telling that it isn't so anymore. hearsay is always only insinuative, but i'm finding the messages i'm getting honestly alarming.

what you hear of are marketing executives unwilling to believe that no-one has heard of their company before: "so, do you know our company? ...no? ...umm...??" you hear of obnoxious lectures by design agents for lay(wo)men from all around the world assuming that finnish design as a concept is something they know and appreciate. naturally the lectures come with a few questionable jokes thrown in to inform people, for example, that the aalto stool has three legs because "as we all know... ha ha... men are said to have three legs and women two... ha ha" with the result of an entire audience glancing awkwardly each other. the worst thing is when you hear of global business meetings where it is obvious the finnish company representative has not bothered to find out at all who they are negotiating with, but walk in chest protruded and condescending.

all of the above examples have lead to people feeling confused, insulted and belittled. being asked to explain odd behavior is tough and even when successful, the impact factor stays on the negative. surely that was not the intention, but something has seriously gone haywire. instead of appearing proud, we seem to appear pompous.

at what point did we start believing that a few hundred design enthusiastic tourists from japan made artek a household name everywhere? when did the fact that habitat and colette once sold iittala glasses turn their reputation to world-leader in glassware? yeah, so jackie kennedy wore marimekko in the 60's: has anyone of significance worn their stuff since?

don't get me wrong, i am a true fan of artek, iittala and marimekko, and want their success. i take pride as much (and possibly more) as the next person in the appreciation of my native country's creative history and present. it just seems that some finnish companies are so enthralled by their domestic success and market positioning that they forget it does not imply global recognition. we've exchanged modesty to arrogant assumptions.

what i am questioning is the delivery method: it isn't a lack of courage, but lack of skill and reciprocity. there is a difference between healthy pride and obnoxious behavior. add some communication barriers and cultural insensitivity and you've got a concoction ready to blow up. what finns seem to not get is that arrogance will not get us anywhere: having the brûléan pat on the shoulder does not attract anyone else than the elitist wannabe. building recognizable brands requires both knowing and believing in your product and knowing your audience and their needs: ignore the latter and you'll fail.

what we possibly could learn from our western neighbors is the capability to listen and base our presentations on what we can infer our audience or customer needs and wants. we could start by not assuming that everyone who makes it to finland and wants to get to know finnish design was a design aficionado. it could be reasonable to assume that cooperation with global brands does not begin from the insuperability of finnish brands.

we could also let go of the idea that the tourists who do make it here come because they want to go somewhere exotic and strange and, hence, have some idea of the peculiarities of finnish culture. to build a country's brand image is quite a different story from believing it to be true: northern climate, clean nature, the "sisu" of the people and so on are all worthy brand building material, but they are abstract icons hardly visible for the average tourist walking the streets of helsinki. let's face it, finland is a pretty neutral destination these days and many people come here for business and pleasure: we're not the furthest part of the galaxy where the first relevant question to pose a tourist is "why on earth did you choose to come here?" anymore.

i'm sure some are still doing an excellent job creating opportunities for finnish design talent despite of what these few sad examples tell us. but at least partly we seem to be stuck in our own imaginings of the past: the strange faraway land of quiet and modest people that creates interest in only the most resourceful is just slightly too rough a platform to start marketing from. unfortunately right now it sounds finnish design is riding high on the wave of self-righteous assumptions and self-delusion, and i believe we'll land nose deep in the coarse sand...

any thoughts on the matter?

Monday, June 15, 2009

spring hair, pros and cons.

spring hair is happening everywhere, anna did it, so did anu. sugar kane was exposed to the coloring genius of mv, and i believe she got hooked. i want new hair as well, but cannot decide the direction to go. therefore, i will go all interactive with ya lot. so cast your vote.

but first, let me present "the case".

starting point: i am a natural dirty blonde (last time i checked which was years ago) with thick, wavy hair. my hair is prone to oiliness, as is my skin, and requires daily washing. otherwise it's easily manageable. it grows ruthlessly fast. i've got a tattoo on my scalp.

the options: cut it all off or grow it long. (cutting it very short isn't really an option since i already shaved the bottom part of my head under the bob... less hot.)

question of color: i've dyed it jet black since 2001 (i think). i love my black hair and i think i carry it well, i.e. people do not expect me to be blonde naturally. the root requires attention every fortnight or so. the amount of toxic dye immersed in my scalp is something i hesitate to think about, so let's leave it at "immense". my scalp has also suffered quite a bit but i'll spare you the details.

cutting everything off would let me decide on the color again. i could go blonde or return to black. either way my scalp would get a welcome breather. letting it grow has the obvious downside that the coloring process would continue and, as i already said, i have noted the damage to my scalp.

question of femininity: a bald head isn't exactly easily feminized. requires careful styling and the result is easily more boy george than g.i. jane. a woman without hair also invites strong reactions from people which i am not sure i want, the tattoo doubles the reactions. (and no, i did not tattoo my scalp to attract comments, but because i think it's beautiful... poor judgment on my part.) the fact that i am not traditionally pretty does not make a bald head any easier to pull off.

growing my hair would be the easy option looks-wise. the resulting mane would be manageable and feminine, but probably slightly... boring. i have to give up bangs because my oily skin works against an immaculate brow cover. nevertheless, the idea of just pulling my hair back on a ponytail appeals to the low maintenance me.

so going for the poll, you'll get to see two old pics of me:

so vote by selecting and clicking on the right, you've got two days only! and feel free to elaborate (or not) in the comments.

wow! now c'mon! after over 540 visits i've got 6 votes... how hard is a single click, now?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

miss goody two shoes.

if you've been vegetarian, talked passionately about alternative power sources, recycling, carbon print, animal rights or organic food, you're bound to have had the following type of conversation.

you: i think it's important to try to live more ecologically/cruelty free...
someone: well you know you really don't have much of an impact.
you: the little i have...
someone: and didn't you just go shopping last week... who are you to talk about more ecological living, huh? *snicker*

sound familiar? you betcha.

trying to live ethically, enjoy life and remain sane at the same time is quite demanding. cutting consumption in a society that more and more depends on consumerism is a double-edged sword if there ever was one. sure, we could manage without new clothing, imported food, plane trips and so on. sure, we could.

some actually do. there are activists who insist on radical change, and i wholeheartedly believe self-sacrifice for a good cause is admirable. i also think people often need a push or a shove towards making better choices. radicalism offers a wake-up call for those of us who are too lazy to find out for ourselves. nevertheless, i am not convinced even the most extreme activists want everyone to change entirely for their utopia -- and if they wanted, they prolly know it ain't happening.

the curious thing is that the above-mentioned exchanges never seem to take place between an aspiring ethical consumer and the activist, but between the aspiring ethical consumer and a person who chooses to ignore ethical demands. pointing out the poor logic seems to act as a get-out-of-jail-free card for those who choose not to care.

the desire to live more sustainably seems to aggravate the hypocritics. as a (pseudo-)vegetarian i am used to answering questions about leather shoes or why am i not vegan. although i do not preach my choice, merely taking it up in a relevant context brings out defensive and often ridiculing confrontations. it seems that sometimes ethical choice-making is such a difficult issue that the only feasible attack comes in the form of logical impossibility: "if you're thinking about saving the world, you better act all the way or it's worth nothing. you know you cannot, and therefore your attempts are worthless."

the reason i'm writing this is that i, unfortunately, happened to read a short text in turun sanomat weekend edition about "trend hippies". it was a prime example of the type of hypocritical and counterproductive journalism i am talking about. the article was written to point out how illogical urban, greenhouse effect conscious young adults are because they both discuss global warming and fly to lapland to ski. well, whooptidoo and uh-huh, duh?

the text did not piss me off because it hit close to home. i cannot deny that it pointed out that the life i, for example, lead is not perfectly ethical or that there are discrepancies in the choices i make. well, tell me something i didn't know.

what provoked me was the peculiar analogical "knowledge leads to action" demand that is posited so eagerly at people who explicitly try to make a difference. it is the attitude that even the smallest acts towards improving one's life do not count if you're not all-out perfect. talking about carbon print and driving to the summer cottage are something the writer thought contradicted each other, but the fallacy lies in believing ideological discussion and pragmatic action are commensurable to a relevant extent. as far as i know, believing that a type of action was the best possible one does not imply that following it is obligatory or even feasible.

the problem is that exploring ethical consumption and lifestyle choices reveals what was apparent from the beginning: all consumption is excessive when we talk about material goods that do not merely sustain life. we live in a world of excess. but we still live our lives and hopefully try to make the most of them. we're capable of both idealism and pragmatism, and as much as it seems to bother some people, pragmatic individuals may have idealistic thoughts.

it is incredibly easy to chuckle at people who both try to live better for the sake of the environment or humankind and want to enjoy the myriad of opportunities life and the world have to offer. somehow it also appears to be more acceptable if the objects of ridicule are rather well-off: the trustfund kid is such an easy target...

it is nothing but counterproductive to mock people who recycle, eat organic and buy at least some of their clothes second-hand even if they do take a trip abroad from time to time. active pondering on global issues is better than no thoughts at all, right. at least they're doing something and are trying to be aware. whether or not it is a passing trend or a fad it is definitely more welcome than the über-consumerism of the early 2k. whether the motivation to "go green" is peer pressure or the desire to appear cool, so what?

and so what if people are not perfect. it may not be as clever sounding a topic to express worry over all the people who must be aware of eco-issues (because who can claim to be ignorant these days) and do absolutely nothing, but it strikes me as intellectually lazy to point fingers at people who work at being aware and do something.

if there was a human condition, it surely is the unavoidability of contradiction. chuckle all you can, but the joke really is on you.

Friday, June 12, 2009

out with the old, in with the older.

instead of attending the opening party at bar siltanen on wednesday i went shopping in my storage. it was time to store away knits and sweaters and get the lighter stuff out. there prolly isn't a more eco-chic way to shop than shuffling through your own garb...

my closet, as might be apparent from my previously posted pics, is filled with monochrome. i am very much a black'n'white girl in addition to being somewhat incapable of wearing muted wintery colors such as burgundy, plum, browns and navy. if i do color, it's usually very bright. and despite it not showing in the blog, i honestly do color. especially in the summer.

as proof that color ain't all talk, you can see that there are colorful clothes in my boxes. see? by the way, these ikea plastic containers are the salvation of my storage crisis: transparent, large and with lids they store everything from shoes and purses to clothing neatly and accessibly.

no matter how hard you try to invest in classics or trend-defying pieces of clothing, it seems the sincere attempt fails more often than succeeds. i'm sure you're all familiar with the disappointment associated with opening storage boxes and wondering why on earth the stuff wasn't tossed ages ago...

gulping and fearing exactly that my mood was nothing short of exhilarated when i found an entire store's worth of stuff that is still wearable. there are dresses and blouses, skirts and shorts. five pairs of vans slipons (!!!) in the middle of random items. jackets. tees. everything.

i'm starting with greyscale -- hold yer horses, i can't go bright and shiny all of a sudden now can i -- and pulled out a cheap monday stripey jacket from 2006 and a pair of paper bag waist pants from h&m bought two years ago. ignoring the fact that paper bag waist was a fad, i felt comfy rocking these today. add a pair of mean platform sandals and voila! ready to roll. have you found any forgotten beauties in storage lately?

すごい .

there are staple names when it comes to übercool fashion that is embraced on the street and by high fashionistas alike. comme des garçons, the japanese label started by rei kawakubo, is definitely one of them. the playful avantgarde designs, use of distressed fabrics and guerilla stores are all inspirational paths in fashion history followed by many. true to her signature style, each of kawakubo's collections is ageless and wearable regardless of the year it was originally shown. her apprentice, junya watanabe, follows the innovative path intuitively.

you can imagine the joy i felt on my walk this morning when i passed common, a small store that mainly sells japanese household design. there were clothes in the window and a small label:

in i walked to find three racks full of comme des garçons clothes: blazers, skirts, tees, bags, etc. the term 'second-hand' is slightly misleading: everything was from previous collections, but unworn. the extremely attentive owner told me that the clothes were a part of a collection of a friend of his who worked somewhere fashion related and had bought each collection. now they are for sale until the end of this month.

the pricing is extremely moderate: blazers around 250€ and a black layered wraparound mini skirt was 118€. as far as i could tell, everything was size m, but true to japanese sizing it was rather small. i grabbed this cardigan with iconic cdg dots and some navy stripes. pure lambswool and 98€, i consider it a true bargain and a great find. truly sugoi!
so what are you waiting for? this is a rare opportunity to get some of the real thing for a fraction of the price (instead of the h&m cheapo versions), so i urge you to go and get some for yourself!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

neighborhood recommendation #8: bistro.

well, i'm back with my recommendations. this particular one is way overdue, but for some reason it took me incredibly long to haul myself to this highly recommended and, quite frankly, formidable bistro.

the place in question is bistro helsinki 15, a delicately small but airy space equipped with ambition sufficient to fill a large establishment. from muted linen tablecloths to impeccable servings and attentive enough service, you aren't left wanting much here. actually the only thing i can think of: the background music could be better...

but let's just consider the facts for a minute. the value of the lunch benefit ticket, "lounasseteli", is 9,20€ at the moment. that buys you a lunch at sodexo and we all know what crap they serve. inedible, and that's being nice. by adding a mere 80c you get to choose from two gourmet portions made of fresh ingredients in addition to a starter salad and great italian coffee.

say what? i say go and enjoy.

missing out on the action?

last night i decided to skip yet another party. lately i've been unable to schlep my tush anywhere. understandably i've felt under the weather for some time now and social chit chat isn't something i am truly capable of. i also tend to start crying uncontrollably at the most inconvenient moments after a few drinks in addition to passing out after a few more. embarrassing results of mourning, i guess.

but i wanted to inform you of a great opening: bar siltanen in kallio. their pre-vip-opening (yeah, what's up with that?! there's another vip-party tonight...) was last night and at least my friend håkan tyg made it there (and posted a couple of pics). the menu looks great and especially their weekend breakfast sounds like a welcome addition to the city's offerings. at 9€ it sounds intensely better than most overpriced alternatives.

the official opening party is on friday and i suggest you pop by.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

well, whattado.

i was going to post a long rant on the european parliament election turnout. instead i am just going to sigh deeply and say the following.

recession brings out the conservatives. i guess people want things to be simple: we need heroes and culprits. we want simple explanations. we want to congratulate ourselves for moments of success and blame others for things going wrong. if possible, we avoid responsibility for others if we deem them unworthy of our charity. the weirdest thing about this is that we express all this by listening and giving power to candidates that thrive on bigotry, ignorance and intolerance. i’m saddened and at loss.

bring me my veg.

as a vegetarian who only in the past few years retreated to eating fish (and, yes, i consider it a form of giving up on my principles...), you’d think my daily intake of fresh fruit and veg was in order. well, couldn’t be more wrong.

you see, i’m a pasta and cheese kinda gal. i find peeling fruit a nuisance above any other and the only time you’ll see me eating fruit is as a fruit salad that someone else prepared. since i’m allergic to pineapple and apple, there aren’t many prepared fruit salads available (and why is that, huh?). so ignoring sporadic fruit juice intake, you can tick out the fruit from my diet.

with veggies i am almost as bad. i eat salads, but find preparing them too slow. my weeks alone when my sweetie’s off on work related things, i eat pasta, bread and cheese. days and days of bloatathon....

needless to say, my habits suck. the poor nutrition i get is instantly visible and the minimal excercise doesn’t exactly help. add two pots of coffee a day and you've got a disaster. my skin lacks clarity and, well, cellulite ohoy... it’s clear i know what’s wrong in my ways, but old habits die hard. i am one of those people who need an attractive and easy solution to self-induced and supported problems. hell, who doesn’t?

my university had a group for people interested in buying organic veg, but i found the offerings lacking in quality. additionally, i did not mesh too well with the hippie mindset where the produce wasn’t the primary issue but meat-eater bashing seemed to outweigh the fun with veg. then again i only tried it once and my judgment is probably somewhat distorted. hippies just create a rash on me... yeah, i know i’m a snob.

therefore, i was keen to try sis.deli+cafe’s organic weekly veggie bag. i am a fan of the place and thought their idea was great. by placing an order by sunday, you can fetch a bag filled with your weekly dose of fresh organic fruit and veg the next tuesday. the contents should be 3,5kg (500g daily) and for 25€ it did not seem too steep a price – it is organic after all.

part of the seduction of the bag for me, at least, is being introduced to seasonal produce. i am not all that familiar with what veggies are in season and i am hoping the contents would help educate my urban mind used to overflowing grocery store counters. another perk is obligation: after i have the bag, i am also bound to prepare the contents and eat them, because tossing perfectly good food away just strikes me as impossible. sound good?

our first bag came filled with oranges (fruit=hassle=yuck), large carrots (crunchy and sumptuous), a large leek, tomatoes and some green leaves (pretty and yummy)... did i forget something... hmm. in any case, it did not seem worthwhile to be honest. but i won’t give up that easy since there isn't a hippie in sight!

as i’m writing this i am munching away the last carrots from our batch. i will place another order soon and will keep you posted. anyone else tried the bag? whaddayathink?

a room of one’s own.

one of the harshest things about working freelance is working from home. forget about romantic notions of carrie bradshaw sitting cross-legged on her bed in cute underwear just tapping away – that will lead to a ”mouse arm” in no time. trust me, i know. my left shoulder has actually moved permanently (?) about an inch higher than my right one because of poor choices in working at decubitus. shame on me.

the division of time is also an issue. when at home chores are forever present and pressing. some may find the fact that you can do laundry while working great, but the downsides are apparent, as well. it is all too easy to procrastinate in your own home when you can appeal to housework needing you attention.

fortunately, coming from a large family i am used to all sorts of disturbance. i can concentrate in the middle of a heated debate or a buzzing cafe. in the past years i have worked on my laptop in restaurants and bars probably more than i ever did in my office when i had one. whenever i find it troublesome to focus on a task at hand, i go out to a restaurant. a steady level of noise helps me insulate myself from fleeting thoughts.

after starting at a new job a few months ago my positioning unfortunately did not change although i'm not freelance anymore. the company does not have an office in helsinki and the few of us working in the capital do everything from home. until this changes next fall, i’m stuck on my sofa and the restaurants in the neighborhood.

the problem is that i haven’t found a spot of choice, yet, because a reliably functioning wifi is surprisingly hard to find. i also feel pressed to leave my nook after sitting in a small busy place for a few hours: i’m taking up the space of other customers. despite being a paying one myself, i am aware of the fact that a patronage that moves is the one that brings in the profit.

therefore, i have concetrated in finding a good place at home. a home office would solve several issues, but our apartment is an attic studio above the rooftops of helsinki. there are nooks created by tilted ceilings, but no separate rooms where a desk could be fitted. the layout (not the size) of the apartment prevents a dining table, let alone a desk significant enough for spreading out work sheets. as much as i love the serenity of our home, it isn’t exactly work friendly.

lately i have spent my days sitting on a bar stool next to our kitchen window. i moved from the sofa because my arm hurt constantly. and i am thrilled with the result. the stool doesn’t appear comfy, but my shoulder pain is gone. there is plenty of light and for my more photosensitive days i can close the blinds. i have a view of the roof, chimneys and the bell towers of a church over our small terrace. it is actually quite comforting and definitely not bad as an "office" view.

what kind of an environment do you like for work?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

i hear music.

the french electropop trio pony pony run run are releasing their album you need pony pony run run on june 15. their first single "hey you" promises quite a bit with sounds reminiscent of phoenix and, me thinks, scissor sisters, and has already been dubbed the indietronica hit of summer 2009. will you join the dance? you decide.

i apologize for the blog being almost exclusively about music right now, but i have been wearing mostly black trackpants and been busy with funeral arrangements. music is easy and makes me happy in these somber times. bear with me.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

confetti massacre.

it's a bloody mess! take one michael jackson slash werewolf, red sequined dress, an unsuspecting theatre audience, a killer (har har!) song and karen o, and the concoction is a genius whip topped with a cherry of pop culture references. if you haven't bought the album it's blitz i think you better run to the store now. and if you're a girl and don't want to be karen o, i don't get you...

off with head!

Monday, June 1, 2009

master your craft.

every music fan has some pivotal moments in life that leave a permanent imprint. i have known after some live gigs that i just witnessed something nearing greatness.

a few years have passed since i lived through an amazing and forever memorable hour in the basement of lit lounge in the east village of nyc. i saw death from above 1979 perform to an audience of probably 32 (give or take 2) people. sweat flew in the air and they rocked the place upside down.

their album you're a woman, i'm a machine is a record i still listen to frequently. dfa 1979 split in august 2006 and the boys went their separate ways. but jesse f. keeler's electronic project with alex puodziukas called mstrkrft remained.

the twosome are responsible for remixes for some of my favorite artists, such as bloc party, metric, the kills and wolfmother. there probably aren't many indie dance hits they haven't touched with their magic fingers. one of their latest tweeking targets is yeah yeah yeah's mindblowing song zero (mstrkrft remix here). below is one of their definite hits, "street justice" (no video, unfortunately) which still remains a part of almost every single one of my dj-sets.

last thursday they performed at basso festival pre-party at virgin oil co. (what an unlikely location, me thinks...) they played to a crowd of beautiful indie club kids (and a few of us senior wanna-be beauties already past our prime...) who danced and hollered towards the boys. mr keeler fought the rave-dj -image by gulping jack daniel's straight from the bottle -- he's a bassist after all, ok.

the magic of years past was gone, but the energy still contagious. am i getting old, huh?

here's bounce.