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originally posted 2002-05-25 - 13:35:00

My Favorite Finnish TV Commercials

The One For Fazer Chocolates: In this commercial, a man searches for the perfect shade of blue to match some unmentioned piece of clothing or home decoration. His search takes him everywhere, from a beautiful pasture to a solemn cathedral (wherein he attempts to match the blue to a piece of lapis lazuli tiled into the floor). The commercial ends with him standing under an awning, sheltered from rain, while next to him, a huge blue Fazer sign proudly shows to be the perfect match. The soundtrack features pastoral string sections that drift lazily from one chord to another, and sort of remind of the soundtrack to David Lynch's The Straight Story.

The One For Sonera: In this commercial, a mother with the flu cannot attend her young daughter's singing recital. She is heartbroken when her daughter kisses her goodbye while the father stands in the corner, looking both nervous and sad. A jump cut takes us to the recital, where the daughter begins signing a traditional Finnish folk song all alone on stage. In the audience, the father holds his mobile phone up to the stage, as if it were a camera, while, on the other end, the mother, now in tears listens. The mother in tears and the girl's song are both heartbreaking, and anyone who watches the commercial wishes they were either the sick mother or the young daughter. Why the father does not videotape the performance is puzzling; nonetheless, the song and the image of the mother repeat in your dreams weeks after.

The One For Presidentti Kahvi: In this commercial, the camera slowly zooms outward from the center of a golden cup of coffee while mysterious chords swirl from a string quartet. It ends with someone speaking some Finnish.

The One For The Insurance Company: In this commercial, the frame only changes once every second or so, as if we are looking at a series of still photographs on a slide show. Each scene shows some normal, daily routine: for instance, in one, a man and woman talk at a cafe, at another, businessmen are shaking hands, in another, a logger chops wood, in another 2 blond haired young boys buy ice cream. Each scene is connected to another by pictures. For instance, there is a picture of ice cream on the cafe wall, and there is a forest wallpaper on the businessman's laptop. Finally the last scene is full-speed, as the camera zooms slowly away from a picture hanging on the wall. Over these scenes, strings and a heartwrenching oboe plays the most beautiful song you've ever heard. Note: I only know it's for an insurance company because a Finnish person told me it was.

The Funniest Text Messages In My Phone Right Now (listed in chronological order, starting with the oldest) (and some of which aren't very funny at all, really)


Its first on left side after Shisz Kebab..if cant find: call taxi. :o))

Bow to convention?Sorry..Would you explain?Please..R

Yo li'l Willy, this is the King speaking. Where you at, boy? And are ya coming to Marika's?


kiitos paljon...good night to you my vanha mestari.

I don't get around Hesa as often as before,I'm force-delighting in the wonders of philology.entrance exams&etc.I don't approve of nain now as I had an abortion. (Helpful note to Finnish readers: this message was sent after I accidentally texted "hauska jos nain on" instead of "hauska jos nain on.")

Wau, sina olet nero! :)

Hi! You speaking well finish! Good William!

Pureksia&nyreksia "rhyme" like chew&eschew... But were you controlled/restrained or relaxed/mild? Or maybe just sleepy?

Random Facts About The Street On Which I Live

The street I live on, Horninkatu, is part of a system of roads known as "The King's Road." It's the path that the King of Sweden would travel on his way to Russia. The description makes the road I live on much more important than it actually is, as it's a two-lane, quarter-of-a-mile nothing, whose only distinction is that it runs right alongside Salo's market place. People have been living in Salo since the ice melted away, and Salo was first mentioned in official church books in 1325 and in the 1400s, Salo got its first (of many) pubs. It's always been a place where people came to trade goods, and I guess they did it right near where my apartment is. The point is that because of the market place, it was a convenient stop between Turku (Finland's first capitol, when it was controlled by Sweden) and Helsinki (the current capitol, moved when the Russians took over). All along the road between Turku and Helsinki (which sort of meanders along the southern coast of Finland) there are these old, worn pieces of rock with measurements of distances between the two major cities, though there isn't one of these marker stones anywhere near where I'm living. It took me about 8 months to realize that I am, in fact, living on a street that, when translated into English, has the hilarious name of "Horni's Street." I don't know who/what this Horni person/place/thing is, but other things around town belong to him/her/it as well.

What It's Like To Walk To My Work (something I do nearly everyday)

My office lies straight down Tehdaskatu which runs alongside Salonjoki, the river of Salo. On the way there, I pass the City of Salo's administrative office, a bright blue, wooden building built in an old Swedish architectural style that is popular here in Finland still. Across the street from this is a dance hall that, during nights in winter months, one could see many dancers illuminated in the windows, all waltzing in sync. During those nights, I sometimes would fancy myself as the main character of Shall We Dance?, taking the subway to and from work everyday, every night looking longingly at the dance hall near one of the stops. Or maybe I've never once seen anyone dancing there and only wish that I were like the main character of Shall We Dance?, and have imagined me watching the dancers in the dance hall long longingly. Continuing on past the dance hall and city council hall, a three level apartment building sits on the one side of the street. I've never seen anyone in any of the windows, nor have I ever see anyone ever come in or out of the building, but I'm sure someone must live there, only because apartments in Salo are in high demand. Across the street from the apartment is the phone company in Salo, Salon Seuden Puhelin. This company owns a certain percentage of the company I work for and are also one of our only clients at the moment. I know a few people who work there: mainly Paulina, who works closely with our company, giving us feedback about our software, and also Elina's father, who once asked me about some advice concerning open and closed relays in SMTP servers, which, I believed at the time and still do, was only a test to see how much I really knew about computers. After this, Tehdaskatu dips down while, above it, railroad tracks run over it. If you are (un)fortunate enough to have the new Pandolino trains pass over you at the exact time you're under the tracks, you will hear the loudest sound you have ever heard--which is strange and unexpected, given how quiet the Pandolino trains are. It's some psychoacoustic properties of the dipped-street and the suspended rail tracks that causes all the noise, and even after the train is far past, you can hear faint rustling along the tracks, as if mice are scurrying above you. Soon the road returns to ground level and an industrial complex comes into view. Both sides of the street are owned by the German logging company Log Lift. Since I've had the chance to walk to work nearly every day for the past year, I've always looked past the chain link fence to see if, in fact, any logs were being lifted, but I've never once seen this happen. Since I've had lots of time to ponder this paradox, I've come up with my own, completely original joke that, in the end, isn't very funny, but goes like this (in the style of a British Woody Allen-type character): "So, down the road from my office is this German logging company called Log Lift. But ahem, you know, they don't actually lift logs there, you know. No, see, instead, *clears throat*, they ah, log lifts." There are two gates to Log Lift, one of which has a security check point on one side. All last summer, a stout looking, no-humor type guy manned the booth and would always eye my wearily every time I'd walk by, but now it looks abandoned and forgotten, as if no one needs to go in our out of the place anymore. Inside the booth was (and maybe still is?) a pin-up calendar with pictures of naked women. After Log Lift resides the "company hotel" in which my office resides.

Busy, memorizing

Back, before I was considerably less busy, I would write more. I would write more in order to organize and compartmentalize and memorize and ... process...ilize my life. Things are easier when you write about them, I've often found.

For instance, at my work, we use the LiveJournal software, and I blog there all the time, internally, and right now I'm finding that after I write about what I'm doing at work I understand what I'm doing a lot better. The same goes for my life. Or went.

But I primarily wrote more then in order to memorize things, because I have a pretty awful memory. Now, however, my weekends I've found are being taken up by doing shows or dance competitions. Both are addictive, in different ways. Once you get into theater, especially if you're an even marginally talented young tenor male, you're sucked in and never let go. It's like the mob. Dancing is more like cocaine. You do it once and you can't stop, and it's about as costly as well. The last competition I went to cost around $600 for the weekend, all told, and that competition was a local one. Singing, on the other hand, costs significantly less; this weekend I sang all (or at least some!) 13 Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, and was only out $65 at the end of the week.

But I'm writing today not to memorize weekends like these, which are sadly fleeting yet wonderfully memorable (may I never forget the Saturday night performance of Grand Duke for as long as I live--though I probably will), but instead because someone asked me to write about memorizing, the act of it.

I began acting less than four years ago, and singing as well. My first year I was cast in no roles that required memorization of lines. Only in 2006 did I get my first part that required memorization, and I was terrified.

Well, not exactly. I've never really ever gotten stage fright, but the concept of memorizing things and then potentially forgetting these things when others are counting on you to have them memorized can be daunting, especially when you're up there acting with people who have Masters and Ph.Ds in performance. They're trained; as a computer scientists, we're taught only to learn how to think. Let Google memorize the rest.

The first show I had lines in was fairly large, vocally especially, but didn't have an overwhelming number of lines; memorizing them wasn't the most difficult thing ever, but I do remember I spent a bit of time doing it. The next show was a much larger part, and memorizing this show seemed impossible. Remembering how much work it took to memorize the previous, smaller part, I tried to invent a technique (note: it failed) to help me memorize. I'd record bits of dialogue I was in, then would create a version with my parts cut out. I felt if I could speak the lines in time to the recording, I'd have it down. This spent literally hours that probably could've been used doing something far more productive.

So my first two shows were kind of awful, in terms of memorization. I just remember it feeling very hard, and that I was no good, and that I couldn't stuff any more verbiage into my mind if I even want to. That was August 2006.

By April of 2008, I was one of the lead roles in a straight drama. Dramas, as its to be expected, have many, many more lines than any operetta or musical. By this time, my memorization abilities were improving. I remember spending no more than maybe five or so hours at a Panera bread over the period of some lunch hours and having the part more or less memorized. Between these two time periods, the parts I was giving slow and steadily had more and more lines to memorize.

I'm now in a musical and was given a part a week before we were to be "off book", which is theater lingo for "have it memorized". I was off book by the deadline, easily. This most recent part I have is far and away the easiest memorization process I've ever had. I don't know why exactly (that's the reason why I'm writing in fact) but this character's words just flow out of me, even though they're not exactly words I'd ever in any conceivable life ever say. "Laughter. How I detest it." "How can I laugh when life makes me want to vomit?" "We have sinned, and it was complete failure."

I'm trying to think, wracking my brain here, why this part was so much easier to memorize than my first-ever part. That character then was much more like me. But it was written in the 1870s, which makes things a bit harder. But it was a smaller part, which makes things easier, or should at least in theory.

I feel like there are many types of "good" writing. Good writing could mean that the writing sounds very natural. That it sounds like how people talk. Good writing could mean that it is poetic. That is is novel. That it is paramount in its creativity. Good writing could mean that it is timeless; this is the hardest I think. Even English, I imagine, has a shelf life. But an often ignored form of good writing could be writing that is easy to memorize. That it sort of just rolls of the tongue when you say it. Every show to me has lines that are very easy to memorize, and every show has lines that are seemingly impossible for me to memorize. For instance, in my current show, the line, "I hate to burden you on so slight an acquaintance, but bottling it up inside of me is driving me insane," just flows for me, while another line from the show, "If you knew how poor an opinion I have of myself" makes me all tangled up, verbally. The worst line from the past year for me has been, "I may as well lay my breakfast things."

Now, none of those sentences are ungrammatical. The last one is certainly awkward in a variety of ways, but there's nothing technically wrong with it. So it's not that my brain isn't parsing it correctly into a grammatical tree structure or something, and thus blocking my attempts at memorization. Maybe it's the "way as well lay" part... something about the rhythm of it throws me. I always had a tendency to say "may as well and lay..." which would have been ungrammatical. But it's as if, to me, the "and" provides a certain rhythm that makes more sense. It's like it provides a certain vowel and consonant sound that my brain feels the phrase needs.

And the "acquaintance, but bottling it up..." phrase on other hand has the vowel and consonant rhythms that my brain feels like it needs. I love the "Tance... BuT boT Tle-ling IT up..." rhythm of the phrase, even though on a different aesthetic level, the phrase is kind of of cliched and dumb. In fact, the strangest thing to me is that this show, A Little Night Music, has pretty poor writing. I'm sure there's countless smarter people than me that disagree, but, the lyrics and music aside, nothing comes right out and strikes you as brilliant. All the jokes are obvious, all the expected emotions in all the expected places. It's purely mediocre, in one sense, but to me, it's also brilliantly written from a memorizer's point of view. I didn't have to work on it at all. I'd read a scene twice and have it committed to memory, that's how good it is.

What this means I'm not sure. It's as if, perhaps, our brains work in way far different than anyone really thinks they work. Like when we speak, we have this internal rhythm that we constantly, subconsciously, keep to, and when we say words that aren't in that same rhythm scheme, they don't make as much sense to us. Perhaps there's some underlying rhythm to everything that ties everything together, and when we speak, we pick up on it.

What I do know, as an actor of few years' experience, that when you act you have to think very musical about the words you are saying. You must alter your pitch, your rhythms, your timing; you sometimes must speak legato, sometimes staccato. What we don't sometimes realize is that most of what we say on a regular basis is music, although very subtly, and some less than others. Which explains why that guy who plays the father in American Pie, the school teacher in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, why his voice is so memorable: its distinct lack of musicality. He's the John Cage of acting, it turns out. And none of this is learned, at least not in any school I've ever been to. Like most things in life, we do things by example, and improve only through feedback.

All this to say that, in terms of memorization, this has all gotten easier for me, and I hope it continues to get easier. I was never once asked to memorize anything in school (that I can remember at least; see above re: bad memory). I now wondering whether all this memorizing just crowds truly memorable things out, or whether it makes it easier to keep things in. If me never being taught to memorize in school was for my own good, or if this hole in my education is unforgivable.

Parents, remember.
Much was made of Clinton's "surprising" wins in Ohio and Texas last night, despite her being heavily favored to win easily in both just two weeks ago. She needed to win both, and big, otherwise the delegate math would begin to look bleak for her. After last night, she won 4 delegates more than Obama. She now only trails him by about 140. That's why she lost.

Assuming she can win as well as she did last night in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida (assuming they re-vote which I think is likely at this point), she will probably at most net around 50 more delegates than Obama, which will still put him up about 100. And this is ignoring all of the smaller states that he will win. No matter how you really figure it, Clinton is going to be behind in pledged delegates at the end of the primary season. At that point, she'll have lost to Obama, and will be forced to campaign against the process instead.

What she will then have to do is convince the superdelegates, who are themselves completely undemocratic in nature, that the caucus system is completely undemocratic in nature, and it shouldn't count, and that they should violate the will of the delegates by overriding them. And, worse for her, she'll have to convince 2 out of 3 of the remaining uncommitted superdelegates. And even then, after all that, she'll essentially be tied with Obama in total delegates.

You can only assume that what she's really fighting for at this point is being placed on the ticket...but as the Vice President, a spot Obama would be ill-advised to give her. But if she would broker a deal instead of waging a protracted fight against the process, he might be swayed to think about it.

As for me, I'm just ready for this primary season to be over. I'm so tired.

My letter to the superdelegates

Dear superdelegates,

I’m sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on the Washington, DC mall. It is February 18, President’s Day, 2008. I am a 29-year-old white male, and I have come here to Lincoln to be reminded of our nation’s division and reconciliation. In my lifetime, I have only known four presidents. I have fond but childish memories of jelly beans and bedtime for Bonzo and Nancy’s astrology, but little do I remember Cold Wars and Iranian hostages. I have much stronger, more mature memories only later, of impeachment, of political gridlock, a bungled election, and of an incompetently handled war. Bill Clinton turned me off politically, and while George Bush has turned me back on, it is not because he has inspired me, but because he has insulted me. All I can really remember about politics is how divisive it has been, and for so long. Of course, none of what my generation has seen can compare to the divisiveness your generation has known because of the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement, and of course nothing can compare to the divisiveness of Lincoln’s time.

But if we are to count ourselves fortunate only because others have known worse, then we are unfortunate fools. I imagine a time when Lincoln himself looked out over this mall and wondered when, if ever, a day would come when we could look beyond our small differences and see that deep down, we are all the time. I imagine Martin Luther King looking out over this mall with the same dreams. I imagine that everyone, even the most divisive among us, who visits this memorial wants to hope that this day may come. That this day isn’t just a dream, an imagination, but could be and will be a reality.

Perhaps I am young and naive, but I am looking out over this mall today, and I believe that day has come, that that dream will be reality, that we will wake up in 2009 a new nation, a stronger nation, a nation that has finally put divisiveness behind us, once and for all. I believe that Barack Obama, and Barack Obama alone, is the presidential candidate in 2008 that will bring about this change to our union. I ask on behalf of him for your support.

Clyde Wright

Please share your own story with the superdelegates here: http://my.barackobama.com/page/s/superdelstory

It's the electability, stupid.

McCain wrapped up the Republican nomination tonight. He proved he can win in a conservative state's closed election. Romney won't be able to stop him in enough states, if any, next Tuesday.

While GOP pundits like Rush Limbaugh claim that a McCain nomination will "tear the party apart", there's little chance of this actually happening, especially if Clinton can win her party's nomination. So why did the Republicans choose McCain even though he's probably the least conservative of the field, besides maybe Giuliani? Simply because he's the most electable, besides maybe Giuliani.

A McCain-Clinton general will rally people like Limbaugh to his side as surely as polling indicates that that match-up in the general will be very, very close.

With a McCain-Obama general, however, McCain will lose, and lose horribly. We can only hope that "it's the electability, stupid" will be what's on Democrats' minds when they vote next Tuesday as well.

Update: Alright, some more analysis backing up what I originally wrote, as requested in a comment.

I can guarantee an Obama landslide against McCain. Why? Because while they'll split the moderate vote, Obama will easily take the liberal vote while McCain will not be able to propel the conservative vote to the polls. Also, McCain is widely viewed as the least Christian GOP candidate, while Obama the most Christian Democrat candidate, and will be able to pick up all of the conservatives that were supporting the Baptist but otherwise liberal Huckabee.

This analysis won't hold for Clinton v McCain simply because it'd be Hillary propelling the conservative vote to the polls, but not in her favor.

Obama is not only the JFK of our generation, but the Reagan as well: a Democrat that can and will convince Republicans to vote for him, most especially of McCain is the nominee. It's young and inspiring vs old and cranky (and, in the minds of Republicans at least, traitorous).
I sit here four minutes from midnight on the day before the 2008 New Hampshire primary. Tomorrow young people and old people, women and men, political veterans and political first-timers, white people and black people and every other kind of people in between, will vote in a new era while simultaneously leaving behind one that dates back to 1980. Bush has been inconsequential since 2006 really, but tomorrow is his final nail in the coffin. It also marks the end of Hillary Clinton's run.

In their place will stand a person who has already inspired at least one generation--mine--but will undoubtedly go on to inspire many, many, countless more. This is history, and we are fortunate enough to be living it, to be making it. I was wrong in thinking that Bhutto's death would stop this dream.

Our country is finally whole again tomorrow. Be happy.

Bhutto assassinated

Bhutto's assassinanation just cost Obama and Huckabee the nominations. Sadly, it's now going to be Hillary and Rudy in 08. Hillary will win but it'll be very close.

This is horrible news for so many reasons. So sad, so tragic.
About 11 months ago, I made some predictions about the 2008 presidential election. That analysis was based on the assumption that Al Gore would get into the race. Obviously that hasn't happened, but if it had, I think my predictions on the Democratic side would be correct. I was a bit more flawed in my assessment of McCain's chances (but his pairing with Lieberman I was dead on about), and my prediction that the election would turn on Iraq was essentially right, but I got it reversed. The better Iraq has gone, the better Obama has done in polling. The paradox is that, even though Obama has been against the war and Clinton's been "for" it, the better the war does, the less important it becomes to voters, and since Clinton's seen as "stronger" than Obama, the war's success allows him to play up his domestic policy and this vague concept of change voters think he will bring. The irony is that Republicans will do pretty much anything to make Iraq succeed, and they'll also do pretty much do anything to make sure Hillary doesn't, and it turns out that these two goals align nicely.

Anyway, as we're about to go into a dead spot of polling during the holidays, I'm going to predict right now that Obama will win both the primary and the general election. No clue who he'll run with but it will probably be someone with experience (Biden? Bloomberg?). The Republican primary is a three-way tossup and so is hard to predict, but I'm going to say that Huckabee will edge out Romney and McCain, but not before McCain wins New Hampshire and Romney wins Michigan. But it won't matter when Huck wins first Iowa, then South Carolina and then Florida, which ultimately secures his ascension. Giuliani will stick around to battle it out on Super Tuesday and might even win a few states like California but by that point it won't matter. I've been dreading a Giuliani vs. Clinton general all year, but it's looking more and more like that won't come about. If it does, it'll be a miserable fall. But it's been a wild and crazy year, especially on the Republican side. Who would've guessed five front runners by the end of the year?

So, why do Republicans lose in 2008? It's because the party platform is a mess of contradictions, and its five front runners simply represent this. You can hardly be Christian and support torture. You cannot be pro-economic growth and anti-immigration. You can't hope for both tax cuts and increased government spending. And you certainly can't want both limited government and simultaneously more government invasion into civil liberties. It's no wonder the Republican field won't settle. Its constituents are schizophrenic.


I've been learning how to dance west coast swing now for three months. And by learning, I mean going to as many classes as possible then staying afterward for the social dance and asking as many girls as possible to dance with me. In the beginning, this was not easy. I still remember my first social dance, which took place after my first lesson. Everything in a lesson is easier because your partner is on the exact same page as you are. The instructor tells you what you're about to do so that there's no surprise for anyone. This allows you to execute the move, sometimes, but doesn't tell how to do actually do the dance, since during a dance, the lead doesn't have someone shouting things to do. That first social dance was pretty hard. You're out there without a safety net and it's really, really easy to fall. Because the dance is based around six counts per move, to a trained musician it's really strange, because you begin a lot of moves in the middle of a measure. So I was always jumping the gun. And also leading horribly.

Well, I've since cleared up the whole six count issue, and I still lead pretty horribly, but I'm a billion times better than that first night. I've gone to up to four lessons a week and always stay after to social dance. I watch YouTube videos whenever I have any time. I think and dream about the dance constantly. I've downloaded as many west coast swing songs, put them onto my iPod, and, when I'm waiting for the train to come pick me up from work, I hit the shuffle button and work on footwork. When I don't go to dances I feel sad and get itchy. I wish I was at a dance pretty much all the time, but especially at work.

The most remarkable thing about being at the dances is that I'm seriously there to dance. I'm a sociable guy and love to talk to people, especially pretty girls--and there are plenty of them at these dances--but I pretty much have nothing to say to anyone there. I just want to dance with them and try to get better. I don't play favorites really, though there are a few girls that I always want to dance at least one dance with per night. I'll ask very old women, really new dancers, really awful dancers, anyone who's sitting around waiting for someone to ask them. I could hit on all of the younger women and it's sometimes tempting, but for the most part, I'd rather be dancing with them more than anything, and you can do that without a single cheesy pickup line.

I also find that after a dance, I don't really care about anything else in this world. The moment I get out of work, I get onto my phone to check emails and websites. When I get out of dance, I don't care about anything. I've become completely detached from my body, which is perhaps paradoxical since dancing connects your mind with your body completely. I don't think about anything. I'm just in this weird, calm, zen-like state, a trance almost, and nothing else in my life seems very important.

And, out on the dance floor, after a while it become almost automatic. Almost. I still suck, and my theoretical knowledge and basic technique are both lacking, but sometimes, especially depending on the girl, everything magical just happens and some deep recess of your mind takes over from the more conscious part and the dance seems perfect. Of course, compared to the skill level of many people there, it's not perfect, but it feels so incredibly right, so effortless.

Sort of like this, only with more suck:

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