Tag: media

Sex, violence and horror, anyone?

20 September 2012 | Letter from the Editors

Gladiatorial entertainment: Mosaic from the Roman villa at Nennig (Germany), 2nd-3rd century AD. Picture: Wikipedia

In our last Letter, ‘Art for art’s sake’, we pondered how the efforts of making art (or design) profitable and exportable result, in public discourse, in the expectation that art (or design) should aid the development of business.

Not a lot is talked about how business can help art.

Art of course, is in essence ‘no use’, art doesn’t exist in order to increase the GDP (although nothing prevents it from doing so, of course).

The Finnish poet-author-translator Pentti Saarikoski (1937–1983) argued that art needs no apologies whatsoever: ‘What’s wrong with “Art for art’s sake”? – any more than bread for bread’s sake?

‘Art is art and bread is bread, and people need both if they are to have a balanced diet.’

Defining what is entertainment is and what is art is not always significant or necessary. The boundaries can be artificial, or superficial. But occasionally one wonders where the makers of ‘entertainment’ think it’s going. Entertainment for entertainment’s sake?

The Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) recently announced a new radio play series. It is, it said, a series that differs stylistically from traditional radio plays; it seeks a new and younger audience. The news item was headlined: ‘The new radio play drips with sex, violence and horror.’ In a television interview the director said that the radio dramaturge who had commissioned the series had described what the (new, younger) listeners should experience: ‘They should feel thrilled and horny all the time.’ More…

Joni Krekola: Maailma kylässä 1962. Helsingin nuorisofestivaali [The world comes to visit in 1962. Helsinki’s youth festival]

3 August 2012 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Maailma kylässä 1962. Helsingin nuorisofestivaali
[The world comes to visit in 1962.  Helsinki’s youth festival]
Helsinki: Like, 2012. 310 p., ill.
ISBN 978-952-01-0757-4
€ 27.10, paperback

In the summer of 1962, in the middle of the Cold War, a week-long youth festival was held in Helsinki. Behind the scenes of the event a propaganda war between East and West was being waged, something not uncommon at such festivals, which were the venue for meetings of the International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY, founded 1907). The main organisers were the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY, 1945), generally regarded as a Soviet propaganda agency, and the International Union of Students (IUS, 1946). The Finnish government’s initially lukewarm attitude to the event turned more positive as a result of the influence of the the Soviet Union. Helsinki hosted some 12,000 guests from all over the world at the ‘Peace and Friendship’ festival, with a couple of thousand Finns taking part. To Finns, the festival introduced colourful and exotic foreign life, a novelty in the country at the time. Resistance to the festival sparked youth riots which were suppressed by the police, and a smaller shadow event was organised mainly with CIA funding. Although the press condemned the unrest, it kept fairly silent about the festival itself. According to Joni Krekola, however, it was a success; in his interesting book he studies a major event that historians have overlooked, its diverse programme, its side- and after-effects, and its wider impact on society.
Translated by David McDuff

Summer madness

27 June 2012 | Non-fiction, Tales of a journalist

Illustration: Joonas Väänänen

In the endlessly long days of the brief Nordic summer, what could be better than to go on a bender? Jyrki Lehtola explores a quaint Finnish custom

In Finland it’s cold and dark for nine months of the year. We spend the other three months drunkenly praying that tomorrow it might be warmer and lighter – and sometimes it is.

From the perspective of the national psyche, you’d think we might have learnt to live with the cold and the dark. We might have dealt with it and turned it into something useful to us and to our continued survival. Sadly though, this isn’t quite the case. For nine months we sit indoors staring at the television, complaining that there’s never anything worth watching and waiting for those three months to come so that we can go outside again.

And when we finally get outside, we go mad. No longer are we a silent, anxious people. Well, we are, but we pretend we’re a different kind of people: one that spends its time chattering joyfully on the beach, dancing, enjoying life, discussing, debating, participating, sharing.

The arrival of summer makes us go mad. By the end of June, this silent, anxious, suicidal nation has turned into the number one samba carnival of Northern Europe. More…

Smart Moomins

27 June 2012 | This 'n' that

From page to screen: Tove Jansson's classic

‘Here’s little Moomintroll, none other,
Hurrying home with milk for Mother,’

are the opening lines of Tove Jansson’s classic 1952 illustrated children’s tale of a sister lost and found, The Book about Moomintroll, Mymble and Little My, in the English poet and novelist Sophie Hannah’s beguiling translation. (Swedish original: Hur gick det sen? Boken om Mymlan, Mumintrollet och Lilla My; illustration: the Finnish version.)

The book has now been released as a smartphone app by the London publisher Sort Of Books and Helsinki’s WSOY in collaboration with the Finnish developer Spinfy.

At the tap of a finger, birds fly, forest creatures crawl up and down tree-trunks, flowers open and close, fish jump and hattifatteners wiggle. Unlike in the Japanese animated cartoons that have done so much to make the Moomins well-known worldwide, this is achieved without doing any violence to Jansson’s original graphics.

The app can be played either in text or, for very small children, read-to mode, voiced by the actor Sam West. Three more Moomin apps are scheduled for release later this year.

Age before beauty?

5 April 2012 | This 'n' that

Buranovskiye Babushki: Udmurt originality. Photo: Wikipedia/Larisa Gorbunowa, 2011

We can’t be the only ones to have a secret fondness for the Eurovision Song Contest– however cheesy the offerings, however rigged or outright political the voting, however bored or drunken the presenters (or maybe that’s only in the UK). Camp, innocent, calculating, so ugly it’s beautiful (or vice versa). In fact, we suspect that’s why we like it so much.

In the 57th Contest, to be held in Azerbaijan in May, Russia is to be represented by the song ‘Party for everybody’ by a group of eight old ladies, the Buranovskiye Babushki, from the republic of Udmurtia, deep in the heartland of the Russian Federation, some 1400 kilometres from Moscow. More…

Kidult culture

4 April 2012 | Non-fiction, Tales of a journalist

Illustration: Joonas Väänänen

Life is hard, and then you grow up. Except that you don’t really, at least if you keep watching television. Jyrki Lehtola takes a look at entertainment for the Peter Pan generation – which, he argues, is pretty much all of us

When did we start making television for children? I mean, in theory for adults (believe me, advertises, believe me: for adults!) but in practice for children?

Theoretically television is a wonderful, flexible medium less dependent on big money than the film business. Why did we let it slip out of our hands as a form of expression?

Why did we start making adult programmes for children and children’s programmes for adults? In other words, why do we make exactly the same TV programmes for everyone? More…

Hatefully yours

23 December 2011 | Non-fiction, Tales of a journalist

Illustration: Joonas Väänänen

In the new media it’s easy for our pet hatreds to be introduced to anyone who is interested. And of course everyone is interested, how else could it be? Jyrki Lehtola investigates

Twitter, Facebook, Twitter, Twitter, Twitter, Facebook, Twitter, how can we get the revenue model to work by using our old media, Twitter, Facebook, Twitter, Twitter, hey, what about that revenue model of ours, Twitter.

The preceding is a poignant summary of what the Finnish media was like in 2011 when the rules of the game changed like they have changed every year. And we still don’t even fully understand what the game is supposed to be. More…

Oink oink

23 June 2011 | This 'n' that

Naturally, here at Books from Finland, we’re keen to use the internet for serious (or not so serious) reading, but at the other end of the scale Finns are garnering considerable success in the world of smartphone games.

We don’t like to blow our collective trumpets, but it’s a little-known fact that the phone game Angry Birds, with birds and pigs in the starring roles, is actually Finnish, developed in 2009 by a company called Rovio. As the Helsinki freesheet Metro (31 May) notes, Angry Birds has been downloaded more than 200 million times on different devices since its launch in December 2009.

What is the secret of Angry Birds’ success? ‘I like it because it doesn’t really have any rules and you never know exactly what’s going to happen next,’ says our young reviewer Sophia, 9; her sister, Tia, 5, says ‘I like it because you get to shoot in it.’ To judge by the amount of time they spend playing Angry Birds, they like it a lot.

And how did Angry Birds come about? ‘At the beginning of 2009 our design group went through a number of different options,’ Rovio’s communications director Ville Heijari tells Metro. ‘One of them was angry-looking birds, and everyone fell in love with them right away.’ And what does Heijari himself like best about the game? ‘Definitely the fact that when you make a mistake, the pig laughs at you. That really makes you want to try again.’

In the pipeline is an Angry Birds movie, plus further development of the game itself. ‘So far the world has only seen an glimpse of the birds’ world,’ says Heijari.



The politics of difference

17 June 2011 | Non-fiction, Tales of a journalist

Right or wrong, my country? Illustration: Joonas Väänänen

Big electoral turnouts are generally considered a good thing. But, writes columnist Jyrki Lehtola, in Finland the fact that the vote went up in the last Finnish general election caused a revelation. Educated urbanites and the media (perhaps near enough the same thing), are shocked by how 20 per cent of their fellow Finns think – and the ramifications caused tremors all across Europe

Listen up. Diversity is a resource. Except of course if it’s the sort of diversity that is a resource for the wrong people.

That sort of diversity isn’t the least bit nice. In Finland in the spring, we ran into the sort of diversity that even got the rest of Europe to start worrying. Out in the thickets and forests, diverse people had been springing up in secret, people of whose existence we urbanites were entirely unaware.

And they threatened to bring Europe down. Europe. Which was a bit much. More…

New members of the board

8 April 2011 | In the news

Two new members joined Books from Finland‘s Editorial Board in March: Mervi Kantokorpi and Pia Ingström replaced Nina Paavolainen and Tiia Strandén (who both joined the ranks of FILI – the Finnish Literature Exchange in February).

Mervi Kantokorpi is a freelance literary critic and scholar who specialises in Finnish fiction, both prose and poetry. Pia Ingström works as a literary editor at the Swedish-language Hufvudstadsbladet newspaper; her autobiographical book, Inte utan min mamma (‘Not without my mother’, Finnish translation: Äitiä ikävä, Schildts), was published last year.

What are we like?

4 February 2011 | Non-fiction, Tales of a journalist

To be, or not, a true Finn? Illustration: Joonas Väänänen

Elections are coming: what will the vox populi, the voice of the people, dictate? And which people will be deciding Finland’s political future? As columnist Jyrki Lehtola reports, a political debate has arisen about the ‘right’ and the ‘wrong’ sort of pollster – and the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ kind of Finn

Finland will be holding parliamentary elections in April. We’ve been organising them every four years, like clockwork, for the past two decades, a rare example of stability in a parliamentary democracy. Finland is the European Union’s model student, and the differences between our main political parties are nearly pro forma (who wouldn’t want to protect nature? who wouldn’t want better health care?), so elections in recent years have been more like an endearing tradition than significant, world-changing events.

However, this year everything is different. The upcoming elections have forced us to look in the mirror – and we aren’t liking what we’re seeing. More…

What grade is your kid in?

29 October 2010 | Non-fiction, Tales of a journalist

Illustration: Joonas Väänänen

Should a journalist show his hand? Columnist Jyrki Lehtola ponders the pros and cons of showing one’s true political colours

What’s the best way to present an initiative that would get the cynical, lazy news media to take an interest in the outside world?

The easiest way is to make a proposal in which the outside world is actually defined as the news media itself.

This is exactly what Matti Apunen did early this autumn: Apunen, a long-time journalist and the former editor-in-chief of the Aamulehti newspaper, had just left the paper to lobby for Finnish industry and trade interests as director of the Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA.

He presented the Finnish media with a straw poll, following the Swedish model, in which reporters would anonymously answer questions about their political leanings. More…

Lucky strikes

12 August 2010 | This 'n' that

Stumbled upon: readers find Tommi Musturi's comic strip (June 10–June 18)

When Books from Finland was a printed journal, it was relatively easy to define its readership – now it is different: we are a part of the internet’s ecosystem, its surging and multifarious mass of knowledge.

Those who visit our pages may have the most diverse motives for wanting to read our articles – and they may travel surprising itineraries before arriving on Books from Finland’s pages, as we found out recently: StumbleUpon is still a fairly little-known service in Finland. Thus it took a while before we realised why so many of the comments about our piece on Tommi Musturi’s wordless comic strip, on colour and friendship, began with the words ‘I stumbled upon’… More…

Face to face

24 June 2010 | This 'n' that

FacebookYou can now keep up with what’s new at Books from Finland on Facebook.

And remember: you can also get Books from Finland articles delivered straight to your inbox or smartphone by signing up to our RSS feed, or subscribing to our regular newsletter – the new one is, as we used to say, currently in the typewriter and will be with you soon.

Let’s keep in touch!

Get out of my Face(book)!

23 June 2010 | Columns, Non-fiction, Tales of a journalist

Much is made of the importance of Facebook and the other social media. But what are they, asks journalist and self-confessed internet cynic Jyrki Lehtola in his regular ‘Journalist’s Tales’ column; and, more important, is there any point to them?

This journal and this text appear only on the internet, and you can comment upon the elegant style of this text, as well as its fascinating content, at the bottom of the piece. If worst comes to worst, the apathy it arouses can even give rise to debate.

Does all that mean that I’m a part of… the social media? And if so, could someone tell me what social media mean and how I can get out of here? More…