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Summer wardrobe fail

I recently noticed that I had only one pair of trousers that fit. Literally. Many of my other clothes were too small as well. This was due to a combination of time spent in the gym and the dinner table. Basically, I’m now bigger all over. Add to this the fact that most of my clothes were old and been through the washer and dryer over and over again. They were mostly a neglected mess. Because of all this, I decided I should build a new wardrobe.

I started by going back to reading about the subject. Years ago, I was a reader of menswear blogs and bought a few books on the subject as well. Since then, I have acquired even more books and studied them quite a bit. I’m even back on the blogs again. Instagram is great, too. However, watching other people wear clothes and wearing clothes are two very different things. There is a lot of trial and error involved. With summer clothes, mine have been mostly errors. Some of them expensive ones.

Midsummer is approaching and I’ve kind of given up on the idea of building a summer wardrobe this year. First of all, I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m Finnish and my clothes are for warmth, not show. If it’s warm, I don’t want to buy a summer coat. I simply remove the one I normally wear. Second, the summer in Finland is very short and there aren’t that many warm days. The cost per wear ratio would not be that great. I think I will wait for autumn and worry about summer by wearing less of the same stuff I would wear in any case. Having said that, I did manage to get a pair of trousers and now I have two pairs that fit.

Small victories.

Why do I feel so bad when I’m online?

The blog has been on a hiatus for a long time. Once in a while I would have a look at the stats and feel bad about not updating it, but not bad enough to guilt me into writing again. In the meantime, I’ve been back on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They have fulfilled my need for attention very well, but something has been missing. This blog and the many others I read when I was blogging more were virtual spaces where I could gather my thoughts and put in order all the digital effluvia we all have to deal with every day. Recently, I’ve really felt at a loss with all of it and thought it best to return to blogging.

Today, I found myself saying out loud: “I’m terribly unhappy with the Internet!” Not quite shouting, but loudly enough to startle myself. Why do I feel like this? I think I have all the boring symptoms of a social media addict and I’m online virtually all the time. Everyone is. But most people I know seem to cope very well. They have no problem with it. I feel I do. You can google why this might be the case. There is a lot of talk about the subject. Basically, it’s about altering your brain chemistry via technology. It’s a proper addiction. I should know: I’ve had a few of them before. I’ve beat a few before as well. Or at least they are in remission, however you want to look at it. Anyway, how do you beat addictions?

It varies, but I think substituting unwanted habits with new ones seems to work out fine. The clever readers will think: “Isn’t blogging an old habit you are taking up again?” The even cleverer ones will ask: “Does this not lead to a never-ending cycle of habits?” I would answer yes to both questions. Blogging was never a problem for me (at least I don’t remember it being so), but rather a pleasant and meditative activity. With other social media, I find myself staring at the screen for who knows how long and forgetting what I was supposed to be doing. It destroys attention. That’s the best way I can put it. Not attention span or ability to focus or anything like that. You can focus for hours on social media  junk, that’s the problem. It does something to the mechanism that allows you to focus on whatever you want to focus on. It messes with whatever in your mind allows you to focus on a certain thing. I’m guessing this is a higher mechanism of awareness than just focusing on something in front of you.

As for the other question, I can only answer that there are habits and then there are habits. I brush my teeth, go to work, go to the gym, etc. Many of my habits are good for me. They have been either taught to me or I have acquired them myself. Our upbringing has a great influence on these and as we get older we have to decide for ourselves how we want to spend our limited time on this planet. Writing is rarely a waste of time. I just came up with something I had trouble explaining earlier while writing this post. I would have not thought through all that stuff about attention and awareness had I not started typing a few minutes ago. It’s a pleasurable thing to come up with something like that. Even more pleasurable than getting likes on your social media account.

See where I’m going with this?

In any case, I hope I can get back in the habit of blogging more. The blog will continue to reflect my interests and I have no intention of making it a blog that is dedicated to a specific topic any time soon. It’s more fun to write that way.

Thanks if you read this far and do come back again sometime!

How to Practice Singing and Playing the Guitar at the Same Time

I recently wrote a few songs at home and recorded them on my laptop. I sent them to a friend who wanted to get together and play them. It was all very exciting until I realized I had never sung them while playing the guitar parts. The tracks were recorded separately and now I had to figure out a way to juggle the vocals and the guitar at the same time. A Google search shows that there are many tips on how to do this online, but here is one trick I found helps.

One particular song was a nightmare. The guitar part was an arpeggio with passing notes that followed the melody. However, it was played in a very loose manner, had a few more notes than the melody and used a few triplets for effect. Basically, I had to do a solo while singing the verse. The melody on top was a more straightforward 4/4 affair, but combining it with the guitar part seemed impossible at first. It seemed like I would have to play way too many notes, I kept messing up the guitar part and singing was extremely difficult because I had to think too much about what I was doing to concentrate on the lyrics. You have to put some thought into practicing this kind of thing.

First, you obviously have to know the guitar parts, song melody and lyrics very well. The objective is to find a pattern between them that makes them click. In the beginning, it is important to focus on the first beat of each bar so it will be easier to chop up the verse and its phrases into smaller parts you can analyze and work on while you practice. In the case of the song here, I noticed that there was a pull-off that appeared at the middle of a phrase that was giving me trouble. And here comes the trick. I took a pen and circled each syllable on my lyrics sheet where this pull-off occurred. In my mind I was stressing the pull-off and the syllable, but of course listeners would not hear it. It simply anchored my attention so I could orientate myself between the triplets and sung phrases. Because I knew the lyrics and the guitar part so well to begin with, everything else clicked into place around this one pull-off and its corresponding syllable.

I have never had to map every single syllable like this and I do not think it would be a practical way of approaching a song unless the song is a complicated Zappa tune or something. But taking a pen and making a few notes can help a lot. The brain looks for patterns and giving it something to grasp onto can nudge everything into place.

“It’s important we’re having this discussion”

A long time ago, I wrote a song that had the line: “Post-semantic discourse in the age of na-na-na-na.” The song was not very good, but I was very pleased with that line. It was written as an ironic comment on the function of public discourse and how its utility  often seemed to override what was actually being said. According to my freshman observation, its importance as ritualistic small-talk often trumped any semantic content or meaning. I was young, cynical and into poststructuralism. Reading the news this morning, it struck me that we have actually entered a post-semantic era. The nightmare has actually come true.
It does not seem to matter if what corrupt public officials and businessmen say does not correspond with their actions. What matters is that they are in public saying whatever they are expected to say with cameras rolling and people taking notes. Discourse for the sake of discourse seems to prevail over meaning here and elsewhere. People say: “It’s important we’re having this discussion,” when it’s clear that the only ones benefitting from it only pretend to converse with and listen to the other. Sometimes the discussion is purely ritualistic and everyone involved goes through the motions of debate without saying anything. I’ve been in meetings like this and felt terrified when someone has said “it’s good we’re having this discussion.” No, it’s neither good nor bad that we’re having this discussion. What really should matter is what is being said.
What “It’s important we’re having this discussion” usually means is that the person wielding power in the situation is pleased that they can justify their decisions by referring to the fact that discussion occurred. Whatever was said matters much less. In the past, you could point out that this was a perversion of the reasons we make small mouth noises and launch them at each other through the air. But not anymore. You will sound like a crank if you do that in a post-semantic setting. It would be great if I could say this is why the holy man climbs up the mountain or the monk takes a vow of silence, but it’s hardly clear who the enlightened ones are in these bizarre conditions. Enlightenment as a form of nihilism as it is understood in some forms of Buddhism or someone like U. G. Krishnamurti or even Gianni Vattimo is an interesting proposition but a moot consideration in the chatter of post-semantic discourse. One of the major problems is volume. There is a lot of noise generated by the chatter. It’s almost impossible to distinguish shit from Shinola.
The only place where you find meaning in any profound sense today is art. When an artist puts himself or herself in a position where their attempt to convey meaning can be subjected to intense scrutiny, it is possible to make semantic distinctions. It is very brave of artists to do so. Their words, images and melodies have meaning because they are meaningful to them and to us. That is their only purpose. This does not make all art good by default, but it does distinguish it from the everyday noise of post-semantic discourse. Even bad art has its place. It is not important we’re having this discussion. What is important is that we all create more art and more meaning in a world that is being emptied of it. Art is the thing that might save our humanity. Go make art! You will probably not become rich and famous. You may even be mocked for trying, but you will discover meaning in what you have made.

Kuinka tehdä älykköydestä muodikasta?

Parempi puoliskoni kuunteli tänään levyä, jossa lauloi nykynuorison ihannoima säveltaiteilija. Paljastui, että nuorisoidoli tilaa filosofista niin&näin -aikakausilehteä, johon on taloudessamme vahvat siteet. Jäimme miettimään (minä enimmäkseen), kuinka tällaisen kultakurkun saisi valjastettua mainostamaan lehteä sen levikin nostamiseksi. Kapitalistisen ahneusrefleksin jälkimainingeissa aloin tuumailemaan, miksi juuri tällaisen henkilön vetovoima olisi omiaan mainostamaan filosofista lehteä ja tulin siihen tulokseen, että tyylikkään kuplettitähden ja filosofiaharrastuksen yhteenliittymä olisi viehättävän inkongruentti. Ajatus oli herttainen ja hieman huvittavakin.

Omaa taustaoletusta tutkaillessani tulin siihen tulokseen, että mainitsemani pop-iskelmäyleisön ja valkokankaiden hurmuri on muodikas. Filosofian ja älykköyden osaksi jää ei-muodikkuus eli tyylittömyys. Onko asialle tehtävissä jotain? En tarkoita älykköydellä älykkyyttä, vaan jotain muuta. Älykkyys on harvoin ollut muodikasta ja sitä on vaikea myöntää trendien orjaksi. Älykkyys luo trendejä, ei seuraa niitä. Älykköydellä tarkoitan intellektuelleja tai kuvaa intellektuaalista, joka sanasta pälkähtää päähän. Minun kuvani on Seinen eteläpuolella kahvilassa istuva hyvin pukeutunut filosofian harrastaja tupruttelemassa sätkäänsä ja odottelemassa hermostuneesti keskustelukumppaniaan, johon hän aikoo testata uusinta teoriaansa — kuva on mustavalkoinen. Toiselle kuva voi olla Curien pariskunta labrassaan. Kolmannelle aivan liian lukenut lukion opettaja, jonka elämäntehtävä on inspiroida oppilaitaan. Älykköjä on moneksi ja olemme kaikki varmasti tavanneet useita ihan oikeitakin. Heitä on ympärillämme, olivat he sitten muodikkaita tai eivät.

Suomessa eletään nyt aikoja, jona sivistys ja äly eivät ole muodissa vaikka niitä juuri nyt tarvittaisiin kipeästi. Maan ilmapiiri on järkyttävä ja sitä varsinkin tyypeille, jotka käyttävät sanaa “inkongruentti” arkikielessään. Mieleeni muistuvat ajat ala-asteelta, jolloin piti piilottaa oma tiedonjanonsa etteivät isot pojat vetäneet turpaan. Tai lintsata tunnilta kirjastossa, että sai olla rauhassa öykkäreiltä. Tai leikkiä kovaa jätkää kylillä vaikka oikeasti olisin mieluummin ollut kotona lukemassa huuli pyöreänä Kafkaa tai Sofoklesta. Monille tiedon hankkimisella näytti olevan vain välinearvoa, mutta meille hiljaisen gnostisen salaseuran jäsenille tieto oli nautinnollista. Mitä sillä lopulta tehtiin oli aivan yhdentekevää. Snobbailijat, jotka lukivat kirjan kerskaillakseen lukeneensa jotain olivat hekin omituisia. Suurin osa seuramme jäsenistä ei luultavasti ollut kaltaisiani kaappitapauksia, mutta heitä voi olla jo syntynyt lisää. Suomen poliittinen tilanne näyttää siltä, että yhä useampi taitaa katsella kaihoisasti komeron perukoille etsien piilopaikkaa.


Marsin yliopisto tuntee tiedon pelotearvon

Salaseuramme (joka ei oikeasti ole salainen tai seura) olisi aika tehdä itsestään muodikas, jotta mahdolliset kaappitapaukset saataisiin ulos kaapista. Ensiksi täytyisi ottaa haltuun sana “älykkö” ja määritellä se tavalla, joka ei pelaa vastustajien pussiin. “Älyköksi” voisi kutsua ihmistä, joka sivistää itseään ja on tarpeeksi nokkela nähdäkseen tiedon välinearvoa pidemmälle. Älykkö on sen verran fiksu, että tietää, ettei voi ennustaa mitä tietoa voi tarvita elämänsä aikana. Tittelin voisi antaa myös ihmiselle, joka vain nauttii tiedosta ja oppimisesta sen itsensä takia. Sivistyksen ja oppimisen leimaaminen hedonistiseksi toiminnaksi on riskialtista, mutta toisaalta älykkönautiskelijat pitävät kulttuurista, tieteestä ja taiteesta myös viihteenä. Makuja on monia ja miksi yltiökiemuraisen modernistisen runouden lukija olisi sen kummempi viihteen kuluttaja kuin viihdeteollisuudesta ilonsa ammentava kulkija? Älyköt voivat olla myös vaarallisia, ja vaaran tunteen haluaisin säilyttää. Tieto on nautinto itsessään, mutta tieto on myös valtaa. Valtaa pitää opetella käyttämään viisaasti. Sen verran olemme oppineet sivistysvihamielisen hallituksen toilailuista.

En tiedä alkaisiko yllä mainittu sydäntenmurskaaja älykköyden keulakuvaksi. Tarkoittaisiko se sitä, että hänen uskottavuutensa kärsisi? Olisiko hänen uransa vaarassa, jos hän tunnustaisi lukevansa filosofista aikakausilehteä ja siksi luultavasti myös filosofiaa silloin tällöin? Muutama vuosi sitten olisin vastannut kieltävästi. Nyt en ole enää aivan niin varma. Ehkä hänestä tulisi hieman oudompi ja hieman omaperäisempi lavatähti. Joku, jonka mielenliikkeistä ei enää saisi niin helposti selvää. Hieman salaperäisempi, kiinnostavampi ja moniulotteisempi ihminen. Hieman vaarallisempi, mutta samalla paljon inhimillisempi.

Vallan täydellinen mielivalta

En kirjoita blogilleni suomeksi juuri koskaan. Enkä mielelläni kirjoita politiikasta, mutta Miia Halme-Tuomisaaren tuore postaus Helsingin yliopiston katastrofista pakottaa kirjoittamaan. Sipilän hallitus on luonut uuden ilmiön: akateeminen massatyöttömyys. Se on luonut valtavasti epätoivoa Suomen sivistyneistön keskuudessa ja sitä seurannut hiljaisuus ruokkii tätä epätoivoa entisestään. Stubb on pyydellyt anteeksi yliopistot kriisiyttäneitä leikkauksia, joten sotku on luultavasti hänen ideansa. Soinin puolueen anti-intellektualismi (joka on syöpynyt pysyvästi perinteisesti sivistyspuolueena tunnettuun Kokoomukseen) on helpottanut kääntämään kansan itseään vastaan. Opetusministeri Grahn-Laasosen pitäisi olla virkansa puolesta vahvasti puolustamassa yliopistoja ja koulutusta yleensä, mutta hän on osoittautunut passiivisuudellaan koulutusjärjestelmämme tuhotoimien suurimmaksi kannattajaksi.

valehtelijat laasonen

Grahn-Laasonen tviittaa

Kun katselee koulutuslupausten kera poseeraavia hymyileviä poliitikkoja, Suomen poliittinen maisema näyttäytyy kaikessa hirveydessään. Koulutusleikkauksille ei ollut mandaattia. Edustajat valittiin päinvastoin virkoihinsa luvattuaan, että koulutuksesta ei leikata. Talouden asiantuntijat kauhistelevat niitä. Leikkaukset toteutettiin silti ja yliopistot ovat nyt kriisissä. Grahn-Laasonen lupailee, ettei hallitus suunnittele lukukausimaksuja, mutta hänen sanansa ovat hallituksen edellisiä lupauksia tarkastellessa pelkkää ilmaa. Poliittinen kulttuuri ei ole Suomessa rikki. Sitä ei ole. Sipilällä on vieläkin tarpeeksi röyhkeyttä puhua yhteiskuntasopimuksen solmimisesta, mutta olisi naiivia ja typerää luottaa häneen.

Emme enää usko valtaapitävien tekevän niitä asioita, joita on luvattu ja yhdessä sovittu. Heillä on toisin sanoen mandaatti tehdä aivan mitä vaan. Olemme tulleet tilanteeseen, jossa vallitsee poliittisen vallan täydellinen mielivalta. Diplomatiaa ei tarvita, neuvotteluja ei käydä, johtajilla ei ole asiaa alaisilleen; ei vaikka kyseiset johtajat ovat demokraattisilla vaaleilla valittuja kansanedustajia. Ranskalaiset Éric Hazan ja Julien Coupat ovat huomanneet saman oman maansa politiikassa. He kirjoittavat:

Politiikka on kuollut […] Meillä on puolitoista vuotta aikaa ennen vaaleja verkostoitua tarpeeksi tehokkaasti muuttaaksemme poliittisen teatterin irstaaksi, tehdäksemme “julkisesta keskustelusta” naurettavan ja saattaaksemme naurunalaiseksi idean siitä, että paperinpalan sujauttaminen vaaliuurnaan on mukamas merkityksellinen ja poliittinen teko.

Tällaisissa tilanteissa totuuden puhuminen on vallankumouksellinen teko. Se tulee herättämään paheksuntaa. Hyvä niin. Tulemme kuulemaan valtaapitävien argumentteja asian jos toisenkin puolesta, mutta koska ne esitetään meille kuolleessa poliittisessa kulttuurissa, niitä täytyy lähestyä uudella tavalla. Ne eivät ole varsinaisesti totta tai valetta vaan Harry Frankfurtin lystikkään määritelmän mukaista paskapuhetta. Kuin puron solinaa metsäpolulla. Tai kuin hyönteisten pörinää kesäisellä niityllä. Niillä ei ole oikeasti mitään merkityssisältöä. Jos alamme väittelemään niiden todenmukaisuudesta, unohdamme nähneemme varsin selvästi ettei Sipilän hallituksella ole tarvetta perustella päätöksiään. Ja koska olimme jo vaalien alla kyynisiä ja vieraantuneita poliittisesta kulttuuristamme (RIP), emmehän koskaan uskoneet heillä edes olevan tarvetta siihen. Emmehän?

The 12+12 Books of Christmas

Flanööri challenged me to write a Christmas Calendar where we both would write a post about some of our favorite books every day from the 1st of December to Christmas Eve. If either of us missed a post they would have to buy a bottle of Napue gin, voted the best gin in the world. Strict laws against advertising alcohol in Finland forbid me to write too much about Napue, so let me just say that it is delicious and you should try it. In fact, buy a few bottles just in case and enjoy a few refreshing gin and tonics.

The books I posted about were the following:

  1. Paradox and Discovery by John Wisdom
  2. De Satyrica Graecorum Poesi et Romanorum Satira by Isaac Casaubon
  3. Virgil’s Aeneid translated by John Dryden
  4. Pessimism: Philosophy, Ethic, Spirit by Joshua Foa Dienstag
  5.  The Great Chain of Being by Arthur O. Lovejoy
  6. The History of Scepticism from Savonarola to Bayle by Richard Popkin
  7. Utopia by Thomas More
  8. Silmät ilman kasvoja: Kauhu filosofiana (“Eyes Without a Face: Horror as Philosophy”) by Tapani Kilpeläinen
  9. Satires by Horace, Juvenal and Persius
  10. The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus
  11. The Uses of Argument by Stephen Toulmin
  12. Meistererzählungen by Franz Kafka
  13. The Enchiridion by Epictetus
  14. History of Aesthetic by Bernard Bosanquet
  15. The Conspiracy Against the Human Race by Thomas Ligotti
  16. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
  17. On the Sublime by Longinus
  18. Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnameable by Samuel Beckett
  19. Mallarmé and the Art of Being Difficult by Malcolm Bowie
  20. Naked Lunch by William Burroughs
  21. Satan’s Rhetoric by Armando Maggi
  22. Philosophical Investigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein
  23. Dr. Woodward’s Shield: History, Satire, and Science in Augustan England by Joseph M. Levine
  24. The New Testament by God

They are not necessarily my favorite books of all time, but close enough. Basically, I just picked up books from my shelf, took a picture and wrote something. It was a wonderful way of revisiting literature that I have worked with for a long time. It was like seeing old friends after a long trip around the world.

Both of us completed the challenge and neither of us had to buy the gin. All seemed lost and we were headed towards a ginless future. However, Flanööri’s big brother, a gentleman and a scholar, came to the rescue and got us the gin for Christmas. Which is, as I said, delicious and (probably) good for you.