DIARY 2004















Thu, Dec 30

<22:40> Found this article via Slashdot. It's not particularly enlightening, but it exemplifies one of the major topics I like to rant on. Actually this problem consists of two things, one being basically the inability for humans to multitask efficiently. The other is the age-old (well, at least industrial age) question why we have less leisure time than our pre-industrial ancestors who had to do more work in order to survive.

As of the leisure time problem, I think individual people are to blame, for buying into their consumer lifestyles. With industrialization, it takes much less work to basically survive, but people are brainwashed into a culture of economic growth and superficial pleasures.

Another aspect of such culture, I think, stems from the Lutheran work ethic whereby today's hard work is thought to be rewarded in some kind of an afterlife. It seems that the Christian idea of an afterlife has been replaced by early retirement, but the idea remains that by suffering for a few decades you can really enjoy life later on.

Personally, I think life should be enjoyed right now. It's not necessarily a matter of future pessimism ("what if you die tomorrow") but also sheer simplicity: this is what I want from life, so I'm gonna do it now rather than after 30 years. It's so obvious that it sounds stupid, and it probably is to many people.

Well, maybe I'm just lucky to have the choice... for the present school year I've chosen to teach only 14 hours per week on average. I get paid less than a typical teacher, of course, but I think the leisure aspect balances it out quite nicely.

And now for something completely different. On Wednesday I watched two movies which couldn't have been more contrasting: The Cat Returns and Eraserhead. The Studio Ghibli anime was of expectedly high quality, but being clearly aimed at younger kids, the story was a little too simplified to my tastes. Nevertheless enjoyable.

I can't say the same for the black-and-white Lynch piece which was thoroughly disturbing, perhaps more so than his later, more polished movies. On the other hand, Eraserhead was relatively easy to dissect into analogies. Thus it turns out both of these films do share something essential, namely simplicity, which is nice as it lets more of the detail through.

<23:23> I've also been quite busy reading Harry Potter books, having recently finished Goblet of Fire. To my slight disappointment it wasn't particularly better than the third book, but it certainly wasn't bad either. The storyline in GoF is a lot larger and more complicated, but the quality density isn't really better. At the length of over 600 pages, some of the repeating themes got somewhat annoying. I wonder if the books could have grownup editions that don't try to teach facts of life ;)

Sun, Dec 26

<00:18> What I'm trying to say about The Prisoner and its focus on something else besides 'telling a story' goes back to my ideas on how Sci-Fi should be defined. Unfortunately, it appears that most of the semi-mainstream SF (meaning something that has a chance of entering mainstream media like the TV) simply consists of mundane stories set in the future or otherwise nontrivial environment. That IMHO is not SF. Proper SF can have the desired impact even in a mundane setting, meaning the core story must have something going on.

The Prisoner does have an unusual setting, but the story is a lot stranger than that. And I've explained that neither of these is really important... I guess it depends on what you mean by a story. If it's the plot of what happens to people and things, then nothing much overall happens in the series. There is a message coming through between the lines of story and setting. It's about a struggle of individuality against conformity, a warning of something that's probably going on in our societies right now. This problem should be obvious, but it doesn't hurt to remind every now and then.

I happen to feel a particular aspect of it now that I'm staying with my parents and my grandmother for a few days. They have actually hinted that I should try to be more like everyone else. Our topics of dress and religion may be shadowed by more important world matters, but the principle is equally valid. On the other hand, the Microsoft conformity is slowly degrading here, as my parents have noticed that Firefox and work just as well as their commercial counterparts.

Fri, Dec 24

<23:29> Xmas in Varkaus. Fixed around my parents' computer, installing Firefox and Mind keeps going back to The Village and I feel like I need to watch the final episode again; McGoohan said in an interview that everything that is revealed, is revealed in that episode. So it probably requires to be taken more seriously, with more attention to disconnecting dem details, dem dry details.

There seems to be a number of different websites for Six of One, the Prisoner Appreciation Society, and I haven't had a thorough look on them yet, but it seems one of them is US-centred and the other is for the UK.

Some of the things that make me curiously uneasy about the series overall and particularly the final episode is this idea: The ultimate purpose of fiction is to tell a story. It comes from a SF author (I've forgotten about the name or the general context) and I agree there is a point, but it doesn't quite apply to The Prisoner or many other works of fiction.

In the final episode, as it dawned on me that the Prisoner is finally succeeding in his escape, I experienced a certain warm feeling. Having shared his agony of unjust entrapment, I could now share his victory and liberation. This, I think, is essentially the 'telling a story' part of the series. But it's clearly not the point. Even with the 1984 factor narrowing down the number of escape stories, this story had been told before.

Wed, Dec 22

<20:07> Disconnect dem bones, dem dry bonesI'm not a number, I'm a free man!

Finished watching The Prisoner last night with a marathonette of three episodes. I was expecting some level of revelation in the final episode; after all, the opening of most episodes points to a central inquiry "Why did you resign?" and there's a number of equally essential questions left to answer. The final episode manages to be an order of magnitude more confusing than a typical episode, but in a way that should be expected. There's not much progression in the sense of learning more about the situation when it comes to most of the series anyway.

So overall, the series is a major mindfuck. As I saw some episodes back around the age of 13, I was completely lost but at the same time intrigued by the sheer coolness. Not surprising as the series still confuses the living feck out of me. But between the lines there are interesting sub-plots, and something resembling a point. As for what these are, that would be telling.... be seeing you!

Sun, Dec 19

<22:51> Friday night was the moment of truth, beauty.. or rather bottomness. My other band Aave-Cadillac played a gig at the Physics department, almost on top of the cyclotron. Dissonantly enough, it was a party for the completion of a PhD in Education by a friend of our other guitarist Ilkka. The band consists mainly of Voionmaa staff members, and this autumn I've played the guitar. There isn't really a division between rhythm/solo guitars or anything like that, though Ilkka is definitely more proficient in solo playing.

After the night's experience I think there probably should be more definitions and divisions in the way we play. While I think we're talented enough, the whole doesn't work together very well. Except for our title piece and a few other songs that we've practices more intensely. The sound balance needs fixing, for starters.

Nevertheless, judging from the dance metric I'm quite satisfied: people were dancing to our music more than half of the time. In addition, I think my solos and fills worked out well, though naturally there's a lot of room for improvement. I'm looking forward to getting back with training in January, though for now I'm somewhat fed up with guitar playing, especially blues solos.

Last Sunday Teak and I were making cocktails, and decided to watch the Matrix trilogy for some background activity, as we'd both seen the individual movies several times already. Looking back at the whole, I can't say I noticed any major glitches in between, but there's definitely a change for the worse in style after the first part.

The original Matrix maintained to give a Noirishly stylish, flowing experience. For instance, the mirror symbolism was still rather captivating. There were lots of similarities with Bound, an earlier Wachowski film. Unfortunately, parts 2 and 3 had regressed into generic action flicks. What happen?

Thu, Dec 9

<22:31> 42 bottles of beer on the wall.

Mon, Dec 6

<00:55> Long weekend and a flu-blocked nose. Independence day to"day". Rigorist's friend Sanni (whom I've met a few times already) and her friend Taija staying over. Me trying to get well for Tuesday.

<23:41> In a slight lack of reading, I've been through some of the video material that's been accumulating on my hard drive. One of the old TV series I'm currently watching is The Prisoner, having recently seen episode 7. It's IMHO a fine and nicely quirky combination of timeless SF and 1960s.

Today Rigorist and I watched Sleepy Hollow. I wasn't even aware beforehand that it was a Tim Burton film, and a rather complete of his kind with Johnny Depp and Danny Elfman. Visually too, it had lots of Burtonesque details, but overall is was not that different from a number of other "witch hunt" stories. In other words, it was a non-Burton story with lots of Burton sugar on top. Not bad, but could have used a little more originality. Granted, it was based on a folk legend though.

Last night I saw what was probably much less known a movie, Oldboy from South Korea. A very rough outline of the story might be a Tarantino-style vengeance saga, but there's a lot more going on. The story is more or less perfect for a movie of this kind, though for some reason I happened to guess a rather major revelation in advance. I didn't mean to :) Usually you find stories like this in underground films where the level of production is not so good, but in this case it seemed like a good match, with some very nice transitional effects, not overdone but minimalistically cool.

The last major reading I've done was Harry Potter 3: The Prisoner of Azkaban, which I finished last Wednesday. As it often happens, movies leave out a lot of detail and inner character development, but in this case the difference seemed more striking than usual. I do like the movie adaptation though, as it keeps a nice pace, and the book format is more suitable for the contemplations anyway.

Reading the book does reveal a number of unacceptable changes. While leaving out some detail is OK on film, changing the order of rather important events is not. I didn't really see the point in that. Besides, I think too much of background information was left out from the movie; the origin of Marauder's Map is one of these, as it ties into a larger web of central topics in the Potter universe. Nevertheless, I think I'll maintain interest in both formats in the future. One might even say that the movies/books are sufficiently different to justify enjoying as separate works.

Risto A. Paju