23 April 2015

people, i have 6 things in queue and a child turning 5 this weekend. the germ parade will not abate around here even though i do want to catch up on this blog. sorry. sometime soon i hope.

09 April 2015

April 9 - mikael agricola flag day

on this day, the founder of literary finnish (mikael agricola) died and elias lönnrot, the collector/organizer of the epic poem, the kalevala, was born. the day is also celebrated as the day of the finnish language.

mikael agricola was a clergyman born in 1510 (died in 1557). when he was young, there was still no standard form of written finnish, only spoken. he wanted to translate the new testament. after writing to the swedish king for a stipend after his religious studies, and being granted it, he set to work on his translation. he is known as the father of literary finnish.

since today is also another celebration of the kalevala, sort of, i thought i would summarize below some of the major stories from the epic. since kalevala day in february, ive had a chance to read 4 childrens versions of the stories and can now speak to some of the general themes.

books i read:
-canine kalevala (best choice for a good summary)
-heroes of the kalevala (best choice for something a bit more thorough)
-louhi, witch of north farm (best choice for beautiful drawings of finnish scapes)
-the maiden of northland (most closely [of these choices] resembles the poetic style of the original epic)

from these 4 books, the same stories are repeated with various adjustments and levels of detail. here is a summary of the overarching parts of the stories that were consistent...

väinämöinen - the wise old 'magician', of sorts. his mother basically created the earth and water, and he was the first person on land, he made it habitable. in the stories, he is often looking for love (and not succeeding), playing enchanting music, or making voyages that require him to use his magical chants.

ilmarinen - a faithful friend to väinämöinen. he is a strong, hardworking blacksmith who forges the fabled 'sampo' mill. he also 'gets the girl' (of the north) in a competition against väinämöinen.

louhi - witch of the north. she is like the leader of her people, in what is essentially lapland. her people are at odds with the people to the south-east where väinämöinen lives. she has magical powers and often uses them for making mischief, notably against väinämöinen and/or ilmarinen.

joukahainen - an arrogant, young 'magician' who challenges väinämöinen a few times and loses.

lemminkainen - a reckless, though enthusiastic, young man whose efforts to find adventure or to be helpful often end in disaster for himself and those around him.

sampo - a magic mill that ilmarinen forges for louhi as a gift to offer for her daughters hand in marriage. the mill produces endless amount of flour and/or coins. louhi locks it away in the mountain and doesnt want to share it with väinämöinen and his friends, they try to steal it from louhi, it ends up at the bottom of the lake and no one gets it.

kantele - a harp-like instrument väinämöinen creates from the jaw bone of a giant pike that is killed on a voyage to the north. when väinämöinen plays it, it has magical abilities to entertain, to soothe, and to put people to sleep. the original kantele also ends up at the bottom of the lake with the sampo, but another is made from birch and hair.

01 April 2015

April = Huhtikuu

spring is creeping in. its april. huhtikuu in finnish.

its also apparently known as swidden month, when dried pine trees were cut and burned to create fertile soil for new crops to grow in. “huhta” refers to these cut/burned trees. this is/was (not sure if this farming practice is still done) the time of year to do this, when the snow isnt as thick and the weather isnt as cold but its not too warm either. 

19 March 2015

March 19 - minna canth flag day

this is also finlands 'equality' day.

minna was born in 1844 to a working class family. she went to college to be a teacher but ended up marrying her professor and leaving school. in the beginning of her marriage she felt it was necessary to become her husbands servant and give up all her ambitions. he was a good man though and minna evolved to change her opinion and behavior, husband and wife even edited a local newspaper together. when her husband died, she moved their 7 children to kuopio and took over her fathers business. in her spare time she wrote plays and stories that shaped the future of finnish society. she ended up being a feminist who wrote about womens rights and other social issues, including poverty. pretty cool lady.

so, in honor of her, i actually got my act together early and read two of her writings:

1. short story - the nursemaid (lapsenpiika). this is a very short story with what i would say is a very bitter tone. its definitely written to shame the upper class into changing their ways. possibly it did that, but it wasnt terribly moving to read.

2. play - anna-liisa (one of her more famous). i cant remember the last time i read a play, i suppose senior year of high school. this was not a very complex or challenging one thank goodness. it was straight forward and i thought rather dull (in the sense that the characters didnt have any memorable lines or thought provoking things to share). it relayed a powerful message in its day though, it helped to shift public opinion and gave a human face to some difficult events in a womans life. however, i cant say it holds the same power today.

its about a young woman who secretly had a relationship out of wedlock at age 15 which produced a baby. she was terrified at the repercussions her life would have due to the bastard child so in a fit of panic she killed and buried it. later she was blackmailed by the babys father. what i find most interesting about the whole idea is that the author herself nearly had a similar (infanticide) experience. a couple months after her husbands died she gave birth to their seventh child. she was overwhelmed no doubt, and she expressed to her children that they needed to keep an eye on her and the child because she felt she was in danger of harming it. she really was an amazing woman. the day certainly belongs to her and what she helped do for equality in society.

01 March 2015

March = Maaliskuu

welcome to march (maaliskuu in finnish)!

for this month there is actually no direct translation of 'maalis' , but the word 'maa' means earth or ground. in march the snow first starts to melt and the dirt/earth peeks out again. and as with the other two months this year, march is aptly named. we have been melting around here and the moss is pretty vibrant against the remaining snow and grey boulders. spring is in the air... :)

28 February 2015

February 28 - kalevala flag day

this flag day is in honor of the first publication (1835) of the national epic poem, the kalevala. it is also generally celebrated as finnish culture day.

it was 'written' by elias lönnrot, a physician, botanist and linguist. apparently, he collected the finnish folk songs/stories for the kalevala in between his studies and various posts as a doctor. from what i gather he made about a dozen trips to the karelian (western) border area of finland. apparently he didnt so much write the epic poem as weave the bits of songs/stories he collected together.

the collected work of finnish mythology has 50 poems. there are stories of creation, magic, love, war, etc. i havent had a chance to read a translation, though apparently 5 english versions exist. its on my list, i just couldnt get to it in time this year. maybe next year i can ramble a bit about my reading of it.

we have, however, read a childrens book that turns one of the poems stories into a picture book (illustrated by barbara cooney, of 'miss rumphius' fame), called 'louhi, witch of north farm'. beautiful book. i bought it and highly recommend it to anyone interested, its definitely very finnish.

it should be obvious that the poem is very important to finns and their culture, it tells the tales of them and their lands and beliefs after all. it still influences modern finns and finland and im sure it will continue to do so for at least another 180 years.

22 February 2015

Oscarsss Ssstyle: sleek, sophisticated, safe

and weve come to the close of another awards season. the oscars dresses were lovely this year, but its certainly a polarizing time when people tend to either go safe or stupid. this year most people went safe, and thats okay. id say perhaps more than most years people looked very mature and sophisticated, demanding that they be taken seriously. i'll bite. but, it did make it hard to find anyone to call a favorite standout.

(cate blanchett nails the hair, makeup and gorgeous necklace. i wish i could see more detail on her dress but its a lovely silhouette; rene russo just popped back on the scene for a minute with her feminine waves. i like it. and keira knightley has schooled everyone on how to do award season while pregnant. she wins.) 
(other notables: rosamund! THIS is how you dress a body, post-baby or otherwise. the hair, makeup, and dress work for you. not a big fan of the slit, but i can get over it. and emma stone, i dont know what to do with the color exactly, but it goes nicely with your coloring and lipstick. love the dress detail and hair. and gwyneth paltrow, youve gotten so weird in recent years and this color is obviously a nod to your iconic [and boring, in my opinion] 1999 dress. but, the fit of the dress and the color work for you. the flower reminds me of charlize therons 2010 flower boobs, or paula pattons 2014 fabric waves, but its not totally offensive here) 
(jlo, it was a step up from your golden globe dress and i thought it was lovely...and then i saw it on another person and felt a little bad that it had to share the spotlight [with robert duvalls wife])
(couples were just kinda 'meh' this go around. sophie hunter [plus baby bump] and benedict cumberbatch looked sleek. channing and jenna tatum looked sleek and sophisticated as well)
  (jen, this dress looks like chic beach wear. blah. reese, the waist area is nice but the rest is blah and the slick-parted hair looks kinda greasy. julianne moore...come on, this is shapeless and looks like a disease under a microscope)
 (musical mistakes aka red herrings. singer lady gaga terrifies with those radioactive-protective red gloves. singer solange knowles looks like a she-devil. behati prinsloo [with singer husband adam levine] also looks like a disease under a microscope)
 (post-baby bodies. again, i dont want to point fingers, i want to applaud them in other ways, but their dress choices arent a reason. scarlett looks lovely in green and i like the hair and makeup, but the necklace and boob area are not doing it. zoe saldana just had twins. her hair and body look great, this dress color and boringness arent flattering. her vanity fair party dress was much more lovely.)