Thursday, July 30, 2009

meet me by the river.

summer is the time of city festivals and all sorts of festivities. one i generally avoid because it used to feel shoved to my face every summer when i was a resident of turku is down by the laituri. this year i found myself booking a dj gig at blanko in the middle of festival mayhem.

readers and friends who happen to be in turku tomorrow night: pop in and say "hey". and maybe dance a little, too...

here's a perky tune from martin solveig fearuring dragonette that i'll definitely play tomorrow night. the video is shot at mansion gaultier (yes, jean paul's house) and done in old school musical style.

Monday, July 27, 2009

golden girl.

you've got to love the golden girls. way before there was sex and the city there was a foursome that put the fab fashionista four to shame; creating a tv series with elderly ladies who embody everything that's witty, fun and deep about women is an achievement unsurpassed – all this without baring skin or flaunting brand names. yeah, you could say the comparison fails because satc should be considered primarily a fashion series and only secondarily about friendships, but i am convinced many satc fans would be reluctant to admit that their fave was about surface.

and just as satc fans usually find one of the main characters the most appealing or relatable (it seems carrie is numero uno amongst blogging girls), the same applies to many golden girls fans. i am definitely a dorothy: the observant, dry humoured (but not snarky like sophia) and somewhat reserved character. to add reality to the mix, i come with a side-order of rose and just a dash of blanche. nevertheless, i'd like to be sophia...

like anna, i am drawn to patterns and motifs that are often sneered upon. i must admit to having a weak spot for granny clothes, especially bulky dresses in strange florals and ornamental designs. the fabrics used are often strangely squishy: thick and soft, but not plushy.

when i came across this green boxy jacket that screamed "grandma", i just had to grab it. the pattern reminded me of dna sequences, but the solidity of the simple garment was what really settled the score. it is as far as you can get from the flowing fashions of recent times, but hey, do i care? nope.

the problem of how to wear it? just like sugar kane, i am trying to push my boundaries and try wearing things i have trouble with. my tendency to buy second-hand that never leaves the closet because it's either too costumey or just slightly too over the top to tone down easily needs to come to an end. a project i am working on is to figure out which of my clever little acquisitions are actually wearable. an additional issue was provided by the metal: i usually wear grey metals, not gold hues. but here goes nothing.

to turn the outfit into a more age appropriate golden girl stylization, i needed to accessorize. it seems visiting a corner unknown leads of more accessorizing: there's more jewelry going on than in a long time... a tatty devine pegasus brooch to hold the jacket closed and a recent retro acquisition from london: casio 80's remake. a small women's digital watch that is so incredibly ugly it feels unbelievably cool.
i also added a quality bag to balance the obvious second-hand look of the jacket and the faded denim shorts. via the d&g bag my carrie met my dorothy halfway – and the bag got a justifiable outing after a couple of years storage rest due to brass details.

add a pair of golden leopard print earrings and a platform suede sandals and the result is hopefully more city chic than tragic blast from grandma's travel trunk.

what do you think: should i toss the grannie or embrace my inner senior citizen?

here's some golden girl fashion talk...

shore lego.

i have always lived near a vast body of water and cannot imagine feeling comfortable as an inlander. the proximity of sea creates a horizon of freedom for me even at times of permanence. even a flowing river gives an impression of movement and direction in the solidity of everyday life. my relationship with water might explain the lack of affection i feel for other natural elements (on the assumption that we only have a certain amount of affective feelings to give, which is prolly faulty...); i desire very little green around me, but the reflecting gleam of h2o is essential.

despite my adoration of the ocean and although i used to sail as a kid, i don't find sailboats or other sea vessels all that interesting. i actually fear being afloat these days. (overall, i've turned into quite a wuss as i age...) nevertheless, i adore walking along the water and the visual stimuli offered by the sea. many of my home cities have been ports. strolling in the docklands and driving past harbors are very much part of my urban experience. the aesthetic of cranes and crates is as much a part of the texture of a city as are graffiti and concrete walls. all essential for me.

my fascination with shipping containers started at an early age when i pointed out that giant lego was stocked near the ruissalo island, a nature conservation area in turku. obviously, i was referring to the high piles of containers in the port of turku. i regarded them a heap of magnificent utilitarian building blocks just waiting to be arranged and rearranged according to the whims of a great lego builder. needless to say, i really really loved lego as a kid.

i still greet shores with shipping containers with aesthetic pleasure. the limited variety in stacking and colors create a soothing pattern of repetition. therefore, a dodgy shipping yard is an environment of marvel and fascinates me endlessly. to realize there are others who share my passion and actually create something with the giant lego has been exciting beyond belief.

seeing a book of lot-ek ("low tech") works for the first time actually produced a yelp on my part. embarrassing, sure, but oh, so amazing. the creative, italian originating architectural duo work from nyc and use unexpected materials to create living and working spaces. although a small firm, they've created a credible reputation for art projects – one of which took place in finland during snow show in 2004 (in collaboration with a thai artist friend, phathaiwat "top" changtrakul).

moreover, architect adam kalkin creates impressive, affordable and luxurious beyond sensibility living solutions from shipping containers. some of his works are presented here as a slide show. although his suggestions of combining traditional wooden housing with the rough'n'rumble of steel might be too underlining a contrast for some – and it certainly is for me – it definitely displays the possibilities there are with reusing these magnificent boxes.

one of my favorite projects is commissioned by the bag company freitag. they built a flagship store in zürich from 17 shipping containers. known for their tarpaulin bags and reused materials, the building is logical continuation on their part and a beautiful example of eco-architecture that uses familiar elements in an awe-inspiring way. additionally it offers the possibility of relocation and restoration of the site after the removal of the building.
the idea that even buildings can be based on ideals of recycling impresses me tremendously. the ultimate diy-project of creating a semi-permanent living-space and a home from steel containers feels relevant at this time of nomadic lifestyles. it could even offer a solution for those in desperate need of shelter – although i doubt creating material shelters for refugees or the poor comes down to lack of feasible residential solutions because slum issues (i.e. poverty) are still being "solved" by tearing down shantytowns and burning the material used for building shacks (i.e. securing poverty). but if there was a will, could this be the way?

what do you think? are shipping containers ugly bulk or fascinating material? would you consider living in such a house?

Friday, July 24, 2009

own a piece of history.

ever been to the design museum in london? seen this portrait of john galliano?

well you got a spare 25 000 pounds lying around? wanna give it to me? because i want this union jack *slash* pirate flag used in the photo shoot. the exact one. i know i sound retarded, but I WANT I WANT I WANT! *sigh*

i wish no-one ever told me about showstudio who sell props from fashion shoots and catwalk shows. and yes, they have the goods. their main site also holds competitions, video, reviews and all sorts of interesting menagerie for your keen fashion addicted eyes.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

head adornment.

as i briefly mentioned in my recommendation post, i found something fanciful at kaivarin kanuuna. although i am convinced you'll see more of this later (hopefully in the form of better pics), i'm too anxious to wait any longer to present my new treasure to you. i quickly snapped some shots before running out the door last friday night.

for someone whose style is more androgynous than anything else and who has lately felt preoccupied with head issues, a 40's hat is more than fitting. the decade of great division in both world history and fashion, it saw the taking over of men's closets while they were away fighting, the celebration of creativity and frugality, and was definitely an era of hats and gloves. together with the expansion towards menswear, 1940's also became the stepping stone to re-establishing the extravagant hourglass in the 50's with the introduction of dior's new look in 1947. it was definitely a decade of extremities and contradictions, but also a decade of eroding class differences and camaraderie.

hats are not my customary selection of accessories, but seeing people like sugar kane wear theirs with such grace and ease, i've been on the lookout for something flattering and suitable. i really love kirsi nisonen's designs and after getting used to wearing something on my head, i'm sure to purchase some of hers. (and, yes, now is the time to do it because her handmade pieces are still very affordable.)

but let's talk about my hat.

as i browsed through the selection at kaivarin kanuuna i came across this exquisite monochrome satin hat. it is handmade and the satin's hues develop from the lightest of grey to black and are wrapped around like a turban while retaining a structured shape. as was customary in the 40's, it is constructed to be worn tipped to one side. "eugh!" you may think and the thought definitely crossed my mind: second-hand hats can be quite icky. but this one was in immaculate condition probably from only a few wears and proper storage and, most importantly, fits my head like a, ahem, glove.

it will look better once i have hair again, but with the right dress(y top) it might just work even baldheaded. here it's worn with a mango dress and earrings bought from the street in manhattan i wore to my friday night party.

do you wear hats? do you stick to washables in your second-hand shopping?

growing slow.

just a quick "hello". i am spending this entire week at the sea cottage. we stopped on our way at the garden cottage to fetch some greens: the spinach (and many other plants) had grown tremendously. we're almost self-sustaining when it comes to salad ingredients.

while my sweetie does the woodchopping and fishing, i tap away inside. our sequestering has not been exclusive – we've enjoyed visitors – but my daily routines need to continue regardless of our whereabouts. as a work environment the quiet solitude of a decades old dainty cottage is quaint and charming.

the slow portable internet connection – we're miles from decent 3g coverage – reminds me of the times when i had to plug in the modem and wait for every single frame to download for at least a minute. do you still remember when pages with flash content were a nuisance, although worthy of marvel?

the width and speed of today's internet highway is truly remarkable (did i just say that? talk about a freakin' revelation...), and only fully appreciated when you don't have access to it (yeah, i'm that slow...). therefore, i've had to carefully select the pages i visit and have noted that newspapers require surprisingly commodious virtual lanes to work properly. as a huge fan of the recent web-developments at ny times, it tears me apart not be able to visit the rich site without pulling my nonexistent hair: the videos and other virtual quirks are mostly high-quality – both content and resolution. nevertheless, our local newspaper helsingin sanomat takes at least as much space (why is that? there's barely anything there...) and offers a minimum of information perks in comparison.

one of my main grievances is not being able to read blogs. the few i follow have large pics which download in a snap at home, but here take forever. commenting is out of the question because it means downloading single postings yet again. so, blogging friends, i'll comment later on.

i am not a fan of slow life, quite the opposite, actually, but my efficiency levels have diminished to countryside quantities and i could say that my work speed resembles that of my mokkula. not necessarily a horrible development...

Monday, July 20, 2009

neighborhood recommendation #11: second-hand.

there are average second-hand stores where careful eyes can surface excellent finds in the midst of trash. then there are small vintage boutiques with discreetly selected individual pieces. consignment stores are located somewhere in between and may be extremely classy depending on the selection criteria or just plain junk if anyone can hoist their surplus gear for sale.

the new consignment second-hand market kaivarin kanuuna operates like any self-service consignment: you rent a table and a rack for a week, label your own goods and leave them be until the week is over. much of the product on sale is junk, but there is a reason i am recommending the place.

it seems someone has somehow persuaded local eira society ladies or some other collectors to surrender some of their closet fillers for sale. there are a few rooms filled with vintage dresses, hats, purses, and jewelry – some are amazing quality, even bespoke, and some just perfect examples of a fashion era gone by.

i did not buy the yellow satin blouse from the 80's because the silky feel was ruined by the "100% polyester" tag, but i did find something amazing that i'll present to you the first moment i'm able to get some decent shots of it...

the space is large and labyrinthy, but the racks with gems are easily distinguishable. with display possibilities such as the one below, it is surely worth paying a visit. and if you've got something to sell, it may be just the place.

Friday, July 17, 2009

neighborhood recommendation #10: salad.

a decent lunch salad is surprisingly hard to find. the kind on offer at most mid-priced restaurants fail to impress me constantly: i want a variety of leaves, freshness and aplenty of quality oily dressing. if the base is decent the entire experience isn't ruined by cheap feta or canned asparagus, but if a great base gets an additional load of quality delicacies, were on our way to salad heaven.

my absolute favorite is four seasons, a place often mistakenly called "cotelette & caviar" because of the old sign above the place – or just "the french place". they offer a selection of salads, home-made dressings and a daily choice of pasta and lasagna. there's very little variation, but everything tastes great, if not exceptional, the portions huge and the service, well, french i.e. direct and short. there are only a few seats in house, but summertime doubles the space with the addition of a small terrace.

if i've understood correctly their main focus is on catering, and if the efficiency and care they put into their lunch selection betrays anything of their other offerings, it's bound to be exquisite.

i popped in with a friend and enjoyed a mix of their chevre and salmon salads with green herb dressing. appealing and delicious.


yeah, i know. i am exactly the sort of a person who hates songs like these: too retro, too laidback. for a fussy busybee they just don't make sense. i'm trying to avoid using the term 'pretentious', but, whoops, there it is...

jason schwartzman's (yeah, the actor) solo project coconut records creates songs that i just love feel pissed off about and his former band phantom planet doesn't score any higher.

but the video is cute, there's chloe sevigny and the entire black'n'white vibe just echoes fellini's summer in rome. the fact that it was shot in l.e.s. doesn't hurt, either.

ok, the song isn't all that crappy, really...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

gummy dog.

this is a face i'll never see again in its entirety. my dog weeped during teeth cleaning last night and i called the vet, booked an appointment and took her there today. now four hours later she was diagnosed with periodontal disease and is 35 teeth short, with seven remaining.

i was surprised to hear her mouth was such a terrible mess. i am not an inattentive pet owner although i do blame myself for not knowing better. moreover, i blame myself for not taking her subtle hints seriously enough. sure, her breath was foul, but it always was. she still ate her dry kibble with pleasure, but a couple of months ago had stopped chewing dental care bones. i noted the change, but was not alarmed because just the month before she visited a vet because of a tail infection and i asked him to see if her teeth needed cleaning. he assured me her mouth was fine although it was over a year from her last full cleanup.

after ten years of owning a dog i was told today that only checkups under anaesthesia are suitable for diagnosis: although i had subjected my little critter to regular cleanings – not annually – i had not known that x-rays and a tranquilizer were required to certify oral health. after going to vets regularly no-one had told me that.

i don't blame them, though, because they work in an industry where before performing extensive procedures they ask for financial consent. i've never as much as twitched at the bills my dog produces, but have noted the hesitant manner vets usually suggest treatment and diagnoses. i just cannot fathom how this piece of information had escaped me.

most importantly, she'll be fine. she started funny looking and will continue just a tiny bit more so. according to the vet she'll enjoy eating better with healthy gums than with her infected teeth. the operation will also make sure her lower jaw won't break off (seriously!).

if you've got a dog of your own, make sure you've got their dental health in check. and do not trust vets who claim that merely looking at the teeth while the dog is awake is enough. mine will never visit the place she got a clean bill of dental health at just months ago but will from now on stick to haumau in töölö where her care has always been exceptional.

Monday, July 13, 2009


to begin with, i hope you refrain from reading this as an encouragement to get drunk during lunch (which i do not condemn, far from it, but don't exactly recommend, either), but as an observation of losing certain inhibitions when tipsy...

in the promised cities of ladies who luncheon drinking during the day is not always sneered upon. nyc offers amazing drink-all-you-can brunch deals and a visit to london without a long(ish) pub brunch is not a visit to london, if ya know what i mean. stepping into the bright daylight after a few drinks feels slightly strange but in the right company you're bound to feel happy.

this is the perfect mood for shopping. i don't advice you to step in the middle of an insane sale at a department store because you will leave in turmoil (and probably giggling disturbingly loud), but suggest you walk into small boutiques. without proper focus my eyes tend to find interesting patterns with facility i never imagined possible.

for example after an incredibly mimosa-filled brunch in nyc with snarkylush some years ago, we stumbled into this 80's leather jacket at foley and corinna lower east side boutique. i had to get it and have loved it ever since. the folding detail and the shoulder pads are to die for.

at a friend's store party i was introduced to nyc stylist natsuko kanno who sold her delicately printed tees there for one night. she was incredibly nice and talented, and i wanted to get one of her tees. without cash i had to return the next day and realized that i had believed after a few beers that a gold tone tee was perfect for the silver wearing me. surprisingly the tone suits me when i'm a little tanned and i still find the subdued floral print beautiful.

in london i find myself frequenting all saints but almost always leave empty handed. it may be because their prices have gone up inexplicably (just like acne) and the quality has not kept up. nonetheless, i have bought some favorites there after a pub crawl, such as this grecian-style folded garment (is it a dress, a top, a scarf, no-one knows...) and the studded belt that boosted all saints to general knowledge some years ago with the text "jesus rocks". mine had black studs originally but years of wear have exposed the silver tone underneath.

ultimately, you could say that i lose my inhibitions after a couple too many and that my normal tendency to avoid texture is surpassed by fondness for 3d. i hardly ever buy anything too expensive whilst tipsy shopping, but just stuff that's more interesting. most importantly, after sobering up, i still love what i found.

do you ever shop after a few?

ray in the midst of rain.

it's been pouring rain all day and i've had zilch to do. being forced inside turns me into a wriggler of the worst caliber and i've walked anxiously around the flat. what could be better than to think about clothes, then, right?

like so many of my fellow bloggers, i've secondhand hunted a pair of levi 501's, and finally found the time to cut them into shorts. i preferred a longish inseam to maximize wearability, just like anna. i also think the length is the most flattering to my legs, which aren't exactly on the shapely side.

during my hunt i witnessed vanity sizing in action. my normal jeans size is 26"-28" depending on brand, but i barely squeezed myself into a 29" 501. these ones i bought slightly baggy and come with a 31" waist – and are not exactly huge. sizing has definitely changed lately...

shape matters are also behind my love for shoes with ankle straps. while they supposedly shorten the legs i prefer the illusion of an ankle they create. since i was born with cankles instead of slim and shapely ankles my attempt to fool the eye overrides the desire to retain the semblance of a long pair of limbs.

the rain and my corporeal proportions gave incentive to dig out these beauties: canary yellow versace sandals with studs. i love studs in all forms and these softies are a perennial favorite. they perk up a casual outfit instantly and on days like these, they bring in the sun.

meta-issue: the sandals are in need of help, though. the heel broke off a while ago and i took them to the cobbler only to realize that stockmann does not offer helpful or skilled work when it comes to quality shoes. steer clear of them. i also lost a stud while dancing away some night and need a new one. where to go, where to go... recommendations? the place in viiskulma is really not all that although it's the only spot i'd use in helsinki. i need somewhere they'd rip the heel off and position it again and i'm sure you can relate to my hesitation in asking for that. damnit, i miss cobblers with skill and pride that london and nyc are full of.

rooftop action.

on my way back from the cottage i got a delightful phone call. silver asked me to join him at the opening of ahjo rooftop terrace club, s.o.s. (sounds of sunday). i hopped into my new favorite pants, rolled them up and teetered towards hotel klaus k in these superbly comfy and fatalistically high top shop sandals.

as the two baldies made it to the top to find smiling people, drinks and some rather catchy music. the view is spectacular and the terrace quite cosy. as we exhanged the latest gossip on style i noted that my nails were still full of dirt from the garden...

photos courtesy of silver (sorry and thanks, my camera wasn't charged...) and there are more pics at his site.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

favorite trousers!

i have been avoiding sale shopping. truthfully, i haven't had the time or the energy lately. my brief very work-filled visit to turku resulted in a very unusual encounter: a pair of navy chino trousers.

i never shop at gina tricot. in all honesty nothing there ever strikes me as pleasant to the touch although i've seen some amazing looking items on others. and i am a very touchy-feely person.

therefore, to my surprise when i spent the evening flaneuring around the city after an exhausting day of cleaning code (those who cannot create, clean... let's just say my capability to produce fully functional code is limited.) i stumbled into the new (to me) store and found these babies for (freakin' crying out loud!) 9,90€. for real.

they're soft, baggy, work with both heels and flats, casual for a day of lounging and easy enough to boost towards a more preppy look, and just about the greatest pair of summer pants there is.

have you found your comfort zone on sale?

true apple style.

holy ghost! have been known as a creative remix team with only a few original songs, such as the critically acclaimed "hold on". a couple of weeks ago they released a single "i will come back" via green label sound. for free, i might add. the tune has been playing non-stop since then at both my gigs and home, and now that they released a video that celebrates nyc, the city i hold so dear, i shall not hesitate a moment longer to give you this in case you haven't stumbled upon it somewhere already. love it!

the video is a remake of new order's classic "confusion" and the cameo role of producer arthur baker is reenacted by the man himself! how cool is that?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

the apple and the tree.

although a thoroughly urban being, i have found myself vacuumed into country life quite unexpectedly. not saying i haven't been aware of getting in the car with the cottage in mind, but my stern resolutions of just spending my time on the terrace reading a book has dissolved into taking part in countryside activities. rather hesitantly i must admit to liking some of it; contrary to my beliefs i have started to find digging dirt somewhat relaxing. just like my mom.

all summer weekends are booked because we share two cottages between my sweetie and i. astonishingly, packing and planning our free time has made me more aware of growing up. since i don't have children and have not needed to assume responsibility for another generation, my realizations of obligations stem from my parents and our changing relationship. part of the discernment that parents are aging is noting that you float into a position of command in unprecedented areas. at some point summer houses become the responsibility of children, both materially and financially. my family still negotiates our responsibilities and i hesitate presenting my improvement ideas to dad: i don't want him to feel i'm stepping on toes or assuming control. my influence is, nevertheless, visible and it has become obvious that spending time "buys" one votes for development ideas.

vacation houses are lots of work. at the garden cottage we grow veggies and berries. at the sea cottage we mostly relax, but there's plenty of basic maintenance work all the time. timber-happily we cut down several large trees last winter which means lots and lots of dragging, chopping, piling and axing. as children you're hardly aware of the amount of time that goes into maintaining a comfortable environment shunning on chores and believing summer goes on forever. i have grown manifestly vexed over the insufficient number of summer weekends. thus, i am beginning to grasp the uneasiness my mother dealt with scarce time.

the growing up process with its additional responsibilities pays off. we divided our time between both cottages last weekend and came home with a hefty pile of different kinds of lettuce, potatoes, spinach and herbs. we planted the leek, fennel, brussels sprout outside, and some chili indoors. the greenhouse looks sparse, but believe me, there is plenty of yummy green coming up. it surprises me how excited i am about that...

are you slowly turning into your mother?

Friday, July 3, 2009

the heat.

i hardly went outside yesterday. although i'm a fan of warmth, enough heat collapses my bodily functions. therefore, i stay indoors and only briefly visit the balcony.

the view from the balcony at midnight was spectacular: muted reds and pinks that blended with our blooming flowers. finally, it seems, we've been able to acquire potted flowers that can resist the heat.

i keep wondering whether it is better for the environment to store water in the fridge, make ice cubes or let the water run from the tap until it's cold in order to get the necessary refreshment. anyone?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

thinking outside the box.

[i edited the text below ever so slightly because of logical gaps i ignored in my turmoil of emotion. hopefully it makes more sense now.]

i have been meaning to write about some of the reasons i found academic life implausible. brought to tears today not only because i recently lost my mother to brain cancer but also because a friend of mine lost her husband and became a widower before turning 30 years old next week, i will write about one of the reasons i left my job and nowadays consider an academic career a non-option.

working in academia is all but financially secure. most research is funded with grants that individuals and research groups compete for with applications they take significant time writing. application and evaluation processes vary, but the most common standard is that each academic discipline is evaluated separately by experts in each field. i believe it healthy to assume that most applicants would deserve a grant; the reason some are left out is more often the lack of money rather than an undeserving application. my point being that many who definitely had the potential for brilliant research are left without funding. therefore, applications are written with funding in mind, often compromising intellectual desires.

the makings of a great scientist and researcher are few, but essential: the ability to grasp and handle vast amounts of knowledge and the ability to argue a point. meticulousness is also essential. the single trait most often not associated with doing research, but which is the most important, is creativity. to be a brilliant scientist you need the ability to ask questions no-one thought about before, to question accepted realities and to combine acquired knowledge in unprecedented ways. if you're pushed to compromise your ability to question, the entire process of doing research loses its appeal.

sure lots of important research battles ancient questions, but also finding new interpretations of age-old theories is definitely a creative process. it is also a passionate process. all research innovations are made by those who think outside the box. (apologies for the blah terminology...)

the trend of doing interdisciplinary work receives much official support: the future of research is visioned in novel combinations and cross-sections of traditional disciplinary fields. the problem is that researchers are extremely possessive with their fields of expertise. asking questions that are untraditional is sometimes aggravation enough, but when posed by someone trained in an altogether different field, they are received with ridicule or considered almost blasphemous even when a basic knowledge of the field is more than explicit. researchers are very territorial, to put it mildly.

mastering two different fields is obviously demanding, but not at all unheard of. nevertheless, applying for a grant with an multidisciplinary topic is more often than not directed at only one of the fields it concerns leaving the applicant hanging on the graciousness of the evaluators' understanding. fairly often they receive a review saying the research proposal is too vague or not exactly in the target group. not asking the right questions, that is. our funding system is built to support rigid disciplinary boundaries and, thus, does not offer valuable space for the much lauded interdisciplinary work. the same applies to publishing forums and conferences where multidisciplinary ideas are often shunned upon. the politics of science protect the status quo despite claims otherwise.

i am not saying that every unorthodox question is worthy of exploring. i only mean that sometimes it takes someone marginal or a complete outsider to ask the questions that will enable a field of research to take the right direction. to demonstrate i will use an example of research in an area that touches most people including myself: cancer.

finding a cure for cancer must be the epitome of medical aspirations. cancer continues to confuse, confront and convulse us regardless of the vast amount of research time and funding used to understand why our cells all of a sudden start growing uncontrollably and, ultimately, suffocate our organs resulting in death.

finding a cure for cancer surely would diminish the amount of suffering amongst people. unfortunately we're nowhere near a breakthrough big enough to count as a cure. thanks to years of research we have many forms of treatment, but mortality rates have not diminished significantly.

it took an engineer with personal grief to question the balance of cancer research favoring finding a cure over the effort put into early detection methods. i found out about don listwin in an article in wired magazine. he witnessed his mother's fatal journey with cancer. his path was not unlike my own: both our mothers were misdiagnosed until there was fairly little that could be done. his mother was given antibiotics for bladder infections until her ovarian cancer was stage IV; mine visited her neurologist regularly due to a stroke some years ago, but her complaints were not interpreted correctly until she forgot my name and an aggressive tumor the size of a tennis ball was found in her temporal lobe. like all people dealing with cancer loss, i deal the best i can, but listwin, however, a wealthy cisco executive, left the company and a few years later started the canary foundation.

it is a well-established fact that most forms of cancer, if caught early, are treatable and survival rates are high. although many small breakthroughs offer more forms of treatment, the increases in survival rates are fairly insignificantly associated with better treatments. however pre-screenings, for example the pap smear screening women for early signs of cervical cancer, have diminished mortality by over a half.

the primary reason cancer is so fatal comes down to poor detection. when reaching stage III and IV (the scale used on most cancers is I-IV), mortality rates are crushingly high. nevertheless, over 90% of cancer research is targeted at finding late-stage treatments and drug development rather than diagnosis and early detection.

listwin asked the improbable and questioned the rationale of finding more treatments instead of creating methods of screening early signs of cancer in the body. if we were able to locate the proteins cancerous cells release in our bloodstream, the already existing treatments would save many lives. being an outsider in the business of medicine, he raised his voice with the aid of money: by recruiting the best oncologists, geneticists, biochemists and so on, he has created a non-profit research group in search of a pack of screening methods for the most common and deadliest malignancies. the improbable just got more so with the knowledge that listwin encourages results that are efficient and low-cost in order for them to be widely used.

imagine if melanomas, breast, pancreatic, lung and brain tumors could be screened at a relatively low cost from the entire population. what has become a reality with the pap smear and cervical cancer could happen with the most disastrous of cancers. mistaken diagnoses could become obsolete. receiving devastating prognoses talking about months to live could become a part of the sad history of human healthcare. imagine that.

nonetheless, finding a cure is still an important goal to reach. screenings will always fail to locate all people and all tumors. but locating cancer early is almost as good as finding a cure, and we need to ask ourselves: are we chasing the right chalice?

sometimes someone from the outside is needed to halt our quest for the grail and ask ourselves whether the quest is worth ignoring all else. examples like the canary foundation prove the worthiness of bringing novel viewpoints into an established field. although my own research was nowhere near as essential as cancer research, i had multidisciplinary ambitions similar to colleagues who were regularly left without funding.

the kinds of alterations in thinking that listwin is a prime example of hardly happen with the current style of research funding and promotion. i was lucky for the entire 7 years for having continuous grants and research positions, but i did not see potential for asking the questions i wanted to. i was by no means alone with my concerns but there wasn't a philanthropist like listwin in sight. hence, my choice to leave. the kinds of it is discouraging to note that the doors of academia are not exactly open to creativity.

i wanna be a hippy.

i overall like all strong style statements regardless of their type. present me with a goth, a preppy boy or a drag queen and i'll admire them for creating a look from significant historical references and as an expression of personality.

but i do have a problem with one particular style: the hippie. i'm sure my comments about disliking hippies in anu's, anna's and sugar kane's blogs have caused nausea because of repetition, but the hair on the back of my arms stands up when i see a bonafide hippy style statement. my disgust applies to high street fashion, as well, and every spring i loathe the arrival of "hippie chic" summer fashion that come with the same certainty as the sailor look.

the reasoning behind my attitude is the following. i associate hippies with the narcissistic insouciance expressed by a certain group of people. my stereotypes here are vast and probably very unfair, but i find the characteristics around me too often to my liking.

a hippie is someone who creates a bubble of me-against-the-world around him/herself. they often utter hollow expressions of worry over poor people -- usually acquired as a result of a trip to india where an enlightening hit in the head seems inescapable. i may be too demanding, but if you're unaware of the magnitude of injustice in the world and need to walk amongst to poorest to grasp it, i find it something i'd boast fairly silently about.

because they are pretty much alone against the world, these hippies love to think they're doing tons of good by joining several ngo's and actively take part in meetings. their contribution to these gatherings is usually verbal pondering and a fear of tangible ideas. it may be because of this fear that they enjoy talking about problems far away: concentrating in vague grievances aids in covering up the fact that they aren't really up to more than talk and refuse taking responsibility for local issues. see, i'm a philosopher of action [sic!].

needless to say, a large part of my dislike for hippies comes from personal experience and was acquired during my years as an amnesty international activist: i actually stopped going to meetings because the hippies wanted to moan over the situation in burma for hours but were incapable and scared of planning concrete activity. in the end i showed up once a year and helped organize a fundraising concert which allowed me to do something and avoid the lengthy "discussions".

and yes, they usually wear their henna-dyed hair on dreadlocks (nothing wrong with that, per se), tie-dyed clothes of goa origin (indiska is just fine, if they haven't yet made it to india personally...), enjoy bare feet and colorful scarves. they like to appear sluggish and a little spacey because they associate those characteristics with being deep.

ugh. see, i'm a hater after all... just to add a twist to the story i do have friends, even close ones, who fit into at least some categories of the hippie and i love them dearly. but the style full-blown makes my ear drums pop and my eyes bleed and even a slight suggestion of hippie turns me into alert mode: "am i seeing hippie here, huh?"

i wore this to a presentation on a very hot day. meeting my sister afterwards promoted an instant reaction: "hippie!" which probably clarifies how rare a style choice this is. yes, the shirt is some random indian find from a second hand store, but i tried sharpening it up with a blazer, a briefcase (perfect for a 15" macbook) and ballerinas. i think it looks rather dainty. this is as hippie chic as i will go...

and here's a jam that pretty much sums up my feelings about hippies. technohead and "i want to be a hippy" from 1995.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


the headline said: "a quarter of finns suffer from depression." the story continued to explain that most finns suffer from mid-severe to severe depression at some time in their lives and that people prone to depressive states are those with a realistic worldview.

set aside the tabloid headline and a short newspaper article with its shortcomings and consider the claim: a realistic worldview now qualifies as an indicator for a diagnosis of a mental disorder?

through the medicalization processes in modern society we've all become increasingly sick. the psychologization of the self has become so commonplace that normal moodswings create suspicion for bipolar syndrome, feeling down is reason enough to pop pills for depression and being happy is regarded as add. an illusion of stability has replaced the feeling and thinking human expression as some utopian ideal of normalcy.

none if this is new: the medicalization and psychologization of society are researched widely (i've done my part some years back..) and we know that an increasing amount of phenomena that used to be labeled under social or everyday variation is nowadays given a medical diagnosis. the idea of medicalization as a complex process is pretty much accepted in social sciences and even by some medical professionals.

what interests me now is the reasoning behind why we go along so eagerly. it appears obvious that scientific explanations are regarded highly by lay(wo)men. medical science, albeit not tension free, still enjoys the status of the highest authority when it comes to human problems. in other words, we trust doctors, medical doctors in particular. we find getting a diagnosis a relief even in situations where there's no cure in sight because it gives us a plausible clarification for the state of affairs we're dealing with. knowledge itself feels valuable.

psychologization, (or psychopathologization) as a form of medicalization, interests me in particular: why do we seem relieved to find out that we're increasingly sick in the head? it's obvious that the stigma of mental disorders has all but vanished and, nevertheless, we are decreasingly preoccupied with having perfect mental health.

part of the explanation might be found in the clever way psycho-babble appeals to our vanity. people who tend to be depressed are described as realistic, intelligent, deep and analytical. people with bipolar syndrome are often superbly smart and creative. people with asperger's, add, ocd's and other such socially debilitating conditions are, well, you get the point already: very smart. having a mental disorder has become associated with intelligence in ways that imply having a well-functioning brain coincides with being sick or abnormal. thus, it seems intelligence has become pathological.

it may have started as an innocent empirical realization: severe mental disorders are quite often associated with people with high forms of intelligence – but obviously not every time, i.e. children with severe autism are not all savants. after milder disorders were increasingly eagerly diagnosed, the reference to intelligent people tending to have the same condition probably seemed like a reasonable comforting factor. now it is impossible to escape descriptions of support groups and info-sites that do not list intelligence as a common denominator amongst the sufferers of almost every single mental disorder there is. the message seems to be: if you're one of us, it's very likely you're smart!

as a form of intelligence, having a quick wit seems the only kind that is not considered pathological, yet. dwelling on things is fairly close to mild depression. being coldly analytical and detached gives rise to suspicions of asperger's and other forms of autism. enjoying one's job and hating it the next must imply some sort of bipolar syndrome.

sure, you may say. it appears that i'm confusing ordinary people (self-)diagnosing with actual professional work which is far from haphazard insinuations and quick judgments. proper psychological diagnoses are based on thorough evaluation and only conditions that severely damage the capability of the person to function as a part of society are considered illnesses.

i wish it were so. i know of people who have received diagnoses for a debated form of mild ocd (because of a tendency to fidget when stressed out or nervous) and a suspicion of bipolar syndrome, both from medical professionals who weren't psychiatrists or trained in psychology. as for myself, i've suffered under an insane (haha) workload simultaneously with family problems (such as my mother getting terminally ill) that turned me into an depressed insomniac. my clarity in explaining my state created, among other things, suspicions of substance abuse – oddly when i refused the pills i was offered. i am quite certain that these are not rare instances of medical diagnoses that just point out the obvious: sometimes we're happy and sometimes we're not and we react to our different mental states.

every single doctor has comforted me by saying that my reactions and problems are common amongst smart, educated people. why is that, i wonder? if i was conceited i could infer that i must be very smart but that would be poor logic. no doubt that is something they want me to believe – self-deceptively if nothing else.

why the only way to be labeled normal and sane is to be ditsy and superficial? i mean, when did being worried about one's life's direction and the world become signs of intelligence, because they seem rather basic in a life worth living. yeah, i know not everyone is into wondering, but the aforementioned surely are not issues dwelled on by only the superiorly bright. and if you begin thinking about such issues it's hard not to feel let down or disappointed with a variety of states of affairs.

i still want to think that being sad and happy and everything in between is normal. when sad we're usually incapable of concentrating perfectly and when happy we're sometimes deliriously so. are we really ready to start believing that thinking, analyzing and feeling emotions are all signs of illness? more importantly, are we ready to trade our sanity to illusions of intelligence?