Monday, February 28, 2011

Interview in Jyväskylän Ylioppilaslehti

I was recently interviewied by the Jyväskylän Ylioppilaslehti (University of Jyväskylä student newspaper) which will begin publishing a regular column that I'll be writing. Here is the interview:
(If you prefer, you can read the PDF version (page 13).

Local bartender gives advice to his fellow immigrants.
”I’d like to imagine that both of these great-grandfathers would be shocked to find out that I’ve moved back to Finland. I don’t think they would’ve ever dreamed that”, says Willie Männikkölahti sipping his coffee in the bar Vakiopaine. Willie just received Finnish nationality a few weeks ago. Two of his great-grandfathers immigrated to the United States from Finland back in the 19th century. One of them – Willie’s mother’s mother’s father – used to write columns for Amerikan Uutiset, which is one of the original Finnish-American Newspapers.

Willie is writing about his experiences in his new homeland as well. He has a blog and he writes articles for the New World Finn – one of those Finnish American newspapers in the US. Now he is also writing pieces for Jylkkäri. ”I’m referring to them as Finnish Cultural Assimilation Lessons. Just some little things that I’ve noticed that can make a foreigners life in Finland that much easier. Especially if the foreigner is planning on staying here a little longer and wants to get as much out of living in Finland as possible”, explains Willie Männikkölahti, or Willie Lahti as in his writer name.

In his blog Willie has written about decoding Finnish potato bags, public defecation and also quite a lot about Finnish popular music.
”One of the things that I really truly believe is that one of the best ways to get inside a culture that isn’t your own is through popular cultural references. Especially through the music”, he says.

He tells he’s ”gone out of his way” listening to Finnish artists who have made some sort of impact on the Finnish psyche. ”A lot of times they are things you’re not going to pick up just hanging out with Finnish people in a bar, but on the other hand, you might notice how a song affects somebody when you’re sitting together in a cafe or a bar somewhere. Then that song is definitely worth looking into”, he urges. His examples of influential Finnish artists include Rauli Badding Somerjoki, Irwin Goodman and Leevi and The Levings’ songwriter Gösta Sundqvist. ”Badding’s Paratiisi feels like summer to me. When you have lived in Finland for a while you definately realize how important summer is for the Finnish psyche”, says Männikkölahti.

His advice to immigrants is to learn at least some Finnish. Popular Finnish music offers valuable help in that as well.  ”Not only you are motivated to learn the language because you want to know what’s going on in the songs, but you’re are also going to understand things about the culture you’re living in”, he says.

He currently works at bar Vakiopaine. He also paints in a studio at Kivääritehdas. He is now doing his Master’s degree in English. As a part of his graduation thesis he’s translating the novel Äidin hauta – Mother’s Grave – by a local author Keijo Siekkinen in English. ”I guess the plan is I’m writing a graduate thesis about dealing with cultural references in Finnish to English translation”, says Männikkölahti.

Willie lived between the two countries for a couple of years before he finally got married and came to stay in Jyväskylä in 2005. His son Reino was born a year and a half ago. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Scandinavian Languages and Literature from the University of Minnesota. It took him eight years to complete his degree, because he was already working as a bartender back then. ”After that I was actually making such good money tending bar that I didn’t bother to continue my education or look for work in my field”, says Männikkölahti.

He’s not going to abandon his bartending career even after he has completed his studies in Jyväskylä. ”My plan is to become the most overeducated bartender in the city of Jyväskylä. I’ve been bartending so long that I know this is what I like to do. It’s a good job. It fits my personality perfectly”, he says. He says he likes a job that brings new challenges every day. ”Although sometimes the new challenges in this business are not so welcome”, he laughs.

Jarno Liski

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Kysymyksiä uudelta Suomen kansalaise​lta - Questions from a new Finnish citizen

(English text follows Finnish version)

Tässä on sähköposti, jonka lähetin kaikille puolueille äsken.  Mielenkiintoista nähdä, millaisia vastauksia saan.

Nimeni on Will. Sain viime syksynä Suomen kansalaisuuden, mikä tarkoittaa, että olen nyt oikeutettu äänestämään tulevissa eduskuntavaaleissa. En kuulu mihinkään puolueeseen enkä vielä tiedä, ketä äänestän. Siksi kirjoitan teille. Aion lähettää tämän viestin kaikille puolueille, joilla on ehdokkaita eduskuntavaaleissa. Maahanmuuttajana maahanmuuttopoliittiset kysymykset ovat luonnollisesti minulle tärkeitä.

Mikä on puolueenne virallinen kanta maahanmuuttoon? Mitä mieltä puolueenne on maahanmuuttajien integroinnista suomalaiseen kantaväestöön?

Maahanmuutto ja maahanmuuttajiin liittyvät asiat ovat olleet kuuma aihe mediassa viime vuosina. Usein vaikuttaa siltä, että keskustelut käsittelevät lähinnä pakolaisia ja pakolaisiin liittyviä kysymyksiä. Todellisuudessa suurin osa maahanmuuttajista on täällä kuitenkin rakkauden, työn, tai molempien takia. Itse muutin Suomeen mentyäni naimisiin suomalaisen naisen kanssa. Olen ollut oma-aloitteinen ja ahkera veronmaksaja koko sen ajan, kun olen asunut Suomessa. Sama pätee myös moneen muuhun maahanmuuttajaan: me käymme töissä, maksamme veroja ja kasvatamme lapsemme osaksi suomalaista yhteiskuntaa.

Miksi tätä hiljaista enemmistöä ei ole huomioitu, kun on keskusteltu maahanmuuttoasioista? Miksi kukaan ei ole kysynyt meiltä, mikä olisi tehokkain tapa integroitua suomalaiseen yhteiskuntaan?

Uutena Suomen kansalaisena olen äärimmäisen ylpeä siitä, että voin nyt osallistua täysivaltaisesti demokratiaan. Pidän itseäni hyvin asioista perillä olevana, ja seuraan politiikkaa eri medioiden kautta. En ole vielä päättänyt, ketä äänestän tulevissa eduskuntavaaleissa.

Mitä siis oikeastaan haluan kysyä, taitaa olla tämä: Miksi minun maahanmuuttajana tulisi äänestää juuri sinua tai muita puolueesi ehdokkaita?

Arvostaisin todella paljon, jos jollain puolueenne edustajalla olisi aikaa vastata kysymyksiini. Odotan mielenkiinnolla eri puolueiden vastauksia, jotta voin objektiivisesti vertailla vastauksia ennen kuin teen päätöksen ehdokkaastani.



I recently sent the above email to the various political parties of Finland.  It will be interesting to see what kind of responses I'll get. The email, roughly translated to English:

My name is Will. Last fall I was granted Finnish citizenship, which means I am now eligible to vote in the upcoming general election. I have no official party affiliation and I have not decided who I plan on voting for. This is why I am writing this letter. I plan on sending it to all of the political parties who will be fielding candidates in the coming election. As an immigrant, immigrant issues are important to me. What is your parties’ official line on immigration? How does your party stand on the issue of integration?

Immigration and immigrant issues have been a hot topic in the years preceding the next election. All too often it seems like the discussion focuses on refugees and refugee issues. The reality is that most of us who have chosen to immigrate to Finland are here because of love, work, or a combination of the two. In my own case, I came to Finland because I married a Finn. I have been a productive, taxpaying member of society for most of my time in Finland. There are many immigrants out there who have had the same experience as I have. We work, we pay taxes, and we raise our children to be a part of Finnish society. Why has there been no focus this silent majority in the immigrant community? Why has nobody asked us what we feel would be the most effective manner in which to assist immigrants in the integration process?

As a new Finnish citizen I am extremely proud that I am now able to participate fully in the democratic process. I consider myself well-informed and make a point of following politics in the media. I have not yet decided who I plan on voting for in the coming general election.

I guess what I am really asking in this letter is: why should I as an immigrant vote for you or the other candidates in your party?

I would appreciate it if someone in your party would take the time to answer my questions. I look forward to receiving a reply and promise to examine all the information that I receive objectively before I decide exactly who I plan on voting for.



Laskiaispulla - Shrovetide pulla

Laskiaispulla is sold in Finnish bakeries for a few weeks every year preceding Shrove Tuesday. It is made from a cardamom pulla dough and filled with whipped cream and almond paste or whipped cream and jam.

This laskiaispulla was made by Fazer and is filled with almond paste and whipped cream.

Recipe for laskiaispulla here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Voi olla hauskaa - art show coming up at Galleria Gloria

I've got a show coming up at Galleria Gloria.

The show opens on Wednesday, March 2nd from 6 pm til 8 pm.  If you are in Jyväskylä, feel free to stop by for the opening.   The show will be up through the 7th of April.

Gloria is located at Kauppakatu 18 c 35.

Here's the press release:

Willie Lahti – voi olla hauskaa
Galleria Gloria 3.3.- 7.4.2011

Tervetuloa näyttelyn avajaisiin keskiviikkona 2.3.2011 Kello 18-20
Monikulttuurikeskus Gloria, Kauppakatu 18 C 35

Willie Lahden blogi:

Amerikansuomalaiseen perheeseen vuonna 1970 syntynyt Willie Lahti koki
olevansa suomalainen kunnes muutti Suomeen huomatakseen olevansa mamu
eli maahanmuuttaja. Kuvataiteilijan ura Willie Lahdella alkoi
1990-luvun puolivälissä,
jolloin hän oli Jeff “Uncle Hoodlum” Petrichin oppilaana
Minneapolisissa. Taiteessaan Lahti tutkii ihmiskunnan luonnetta,
tunnetta ja monikulttuurisia kysymyksiä värin ja antropomorfisten
eläinhahmojen kautta. Galleria Glorian näyttelyyn Willie Lahti päätti
aikaisempien vakavien aiheiden sijaan tehdä hauskaa ja hilpeää

Yhteydenotot: Galleriavastaava Kaisa Lipponen, p. 045-1303910
Galleria Gloria, Kauppakatu 18 C 35, Jyväskylä. Avoinna ark. 9-15.

Galleria Gloria toimii Monikulttuurikeskus Glorian tiloissa,
Jyväskylässä. Galleria esittelee maahanmuuttaja- ja
monikulttuuritaustaisten taiteilijoiden ja taiteen harrastajien
teoksia ja projekteja. Galleria pyrkii auttamaan erityisesti niitä
taiteilijoita, jotka ovat suomalaisen taidekentän ulkopuolella.
Galleria mahdollistaa taiteen käytön oppimisympäristönä keskuksen muun
toiminnan yhteydessä. Galleria on perustettu vuonna 2009 ja toimii
yhteistyössä Jyväskylän taidemuseon kanssa.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Malli kuvitellusta rakenteesta/Model of an imaginary structure - photo update

Last December I did a post on Malli kuvitellusta rakenteesta / Model of an imaginary structure , a kinetic light/shadow installation by Jaakko Niemelä, located at the corner of Vapaudenkatu and Kilpisenkatu in downtown Jyväskylä. 

The shadows projected by the sculpture have been gradually changing form throughout the winter.  Here are a few recent photos of the sculpture as it looked the other evening:

This is how the projected shadows appeared back in December:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

FLA Ronald McDonald "kidnapping" was indeed an advertising stunt

At least according to this article from Talous Sanomat the theft of a Ronald McDonald statue in Helsinki was nothing more than an advertising stunt.  Turns out that there is an art opening at the Showroom Helsinki Gallery on Friday exactly when Ronald was supposed to have been executed.  If this show turns out to be yet another display of mediocre art, I am ashamed to have played a part in spreading the propaganda around the world. 

The cops have located Ronald, although not at the gallery in question.  Allegedly there is an "international" art movement involved.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Armas kyyttöjuusto/Armas "kyyttö" cheese

Kyyttö is the colloquial term for a breed of cattle officially known as itäsuomenkarja, in English the breed is known by the rather clunky moniker of Eastern Finncattle. The breed is fairly rare - with only about 400 individuals left in Finland it is for all practical purposes an endangered species.

A group of hard-working individuals at Armas-Perhe has been producing cheeses from 100% kyyttö milk for some time now. Apparently kyyttö milk is ideal for cheese making due to its fat content and high levels of casein and other factors that a layman like me won't even pretend to understand. All of the milk used by Armas-Perhe in their cheeses comes from the farm of a gentleman named Pentti Ukkonen who which is somewhere near Jäminkipohja.

Armas "kyyttö" milk cheese

This cheese has a rather earthy aroma. Treated with bacteria and a salt wash and aged for 4 months the flavor is quite strong. I guess if I had to compare it to a more well-known cheese, I'd say that the flavor was reminiscent of an aged Appenzeller.

This cheese is made in collaboration with Herkkujuustola, the same people that produce Väinö - a camembert-type cheese which I blogged about last month.  It is  always exciting for me to find food that has been produced by smaller operators, especially when the quality of the product is exceptional.

Friday, February 4, 2011

New FLA video - How the Ronald McDonald statue was "kidnapped"

The Food Liberation Army has released a video documenting how they kidnapped Ronald McDonald from a McDonalds restaurant in Helsinki. There is some speculation that this entire episode has been staged by an advertisement agency. I haven't yet developed an opinion on this theory. According to the Finnish press, McDonalds has filed a police report concerning the theft.

I'd really like to think that this is a genuine act of subversion by an actual group of activists but I guess we won't really know until next week which is when the group threatens to execute Ronald if McDonalds doesn't meet their demands.

Articles concerning this incident in Finnish:

Ilta-Sanomat article concerning how the kidnapping was pulled off

An article from YLEX where the kidnappers claim that they are not an ad firm nor is this a student prank

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Food Liberation Army kidnaps Ronald McDonald in Helsinki

Here is a video released by the Food Liberation Army after they kidnapped Ronald McDonald in Helsinki. They present a list of questions that they wish McDonalds to answer. They claim that if McDonalds doesn't answer these questions by Friday, February 11th, Ronald will be executed.

Update: Here is a link to the website of the Food Liberation Army.

The questions that the F.L.A. would like McDonalds to answer as well as a couple of mission statements from their organization:

"We are the Food Liberation Army, and we hope that this extreme action will take us towards a better and safer food future.

Two days ago we kidnapped Ronald McDonald from a McDonald's Restaurant. If you do not answer all the questions we will execute Ronald on Friday February 11, 2011 at 6:30PM EET.

We love burgers, fries and McDonald's, but we can no longer watch silent when the food we love is being destroyed and brought to shame because of greed and indifference. Because of your short-sightedness your burgers have become nearly inedible.

That is why we want to help McDonald's to save food. We made you a list of questions we want you to answer. We hope that your answers will make you understand the dilapidation of the food culture we love and the appropriate measures.

1. Why are you not open about the manufacturing processes, raw materials and additives used in your products? What are you afraid?

2. How many tons of un-recycled waste you produce per year? Why do you not publish that figure?

3. Do you operate with unethical actors, such as illegal immigrants? Why?

4. Why do not you take responsibility of your culinary consequences? Why do you not seek to prevent obesity, diabetes and their ramification deceases?

5. Why do you not just use ethically produced meat? Do you not think it should be a goal for everyone to serve meat of an animal that has has had a good, clean and drug free life? Why is it not your goal?

6. Why is cheap production cost your main value?

7. Do you think your only goal is to maximize your owners´s profits? What do you think would happen if you begin to produce quality to your customers?

8. You are big and global player that reaches a significant part of the earth's people. Why do you use your power to short-sightedly maximize profits and not to create a better world ?

We are not alone, but represent a rapidly growing population. We have moved quickly towards better quality and ethicality of consumption. It is in your interest to answer our questions publicly, and develop your activities through them. Only this way you will survive in the future. Listen to our message and the Move. We will reward you by eating more of your burgers.

You have until Friday February 11 at 6:30PM EET to respond to"