Apr 29, 2011
Apr 28, 2011
Caps - Bolts: Caps.
Sure, Tampa can shut down Pittsburgh's pathetic offense, but not the Caps'.
Flyers - Bruins: Flyers.
Boston's impotent power play will be a bigger detriment than the Flyers' musical goalies. Evenly matched for goonery.
Canucks - Preds: Canucks.
A foregone conclusion, I'm afraid, but I'll be rooting for the Preds.
Sharks - Wings: Wings.
Better coaching and experience will tell.
That's it. Caps-Flyers and Nucks-Wings in the conference finals; Wings-Caps for the Cup.
Apr 27, 2011
Once upon a time, Goblin Camp looked like this:
These days, it looks like this:
There's been quite a lot of effort put in the tile support, and community has produced a number of tilesets for your enjoyment. And if, like me, you prefer kicking it old school, ASCII mode is still there for ya.
The new version, naturally, comes with new features along with improvements to existing ones. The feature you're likely to notice first is seasons. Come winter, ground gets covered in snow and the river freezes over.
And when spring comes around the ice melts, leaving behind drifting ice floes.
Also pictured: water pollution spreading from your camp.
As everyone familiar with the game knows, the world of Goblin Camp is dangerous, and your fragile camp is surrounded by monsters. In previous versions all they wanted was to kill your people. This is no longer true in 0.15: now some of them just want to steal your stuff, and some, like the pair of cyclopes here, want to destroy the results of your hard work by trampling your camp to the ground.
Luckily, you aren't completely on your own. Some monsters, like the troll represented by 'T' to the left of the cyclopes, may choose to join your camp and fight alongside your orcs. Orcs have also made some military innovations, like battlements that allow them to fire arrows over walls, as demonstrated here to some pyromaniac imps.
And if imps do succeed in setting your camp on fire, goblins have gotten a lot better at firefighting.
The new defenses come in handy, because, as if the monsters weren't bad enough, your so called 'civilized' neighbors are also getting in on the action. If your camp becomes successful enough, jealous humans send entire armies to crush you.
And this time around, the game keeps track of everything you do. Want to know just how many poor goblins have died along the way? Just check the statistics.
All this, and more, awaits you a mere mouse click away. Just go download the game already!
Apr 25, 2011
On to the tournament! As usual, there are four starting groups, two in each host city, which amalgamate into two larger groups for the next round to determine the playoff matchups.
Group A (Bratislava): Russia, Slovakia, Germany, Slovenia.
Group B (Košice): Canada, Switzerland, Belarus, France.
Group C (Košice): Sweden, United States, Norway, Austria.
Group D (Bratislava): Finland, Czech Republic, Latvia, Denmark
Groups A and D form one qualifying round group, with B and C forming another.
Here's my thoughts on the teams, with their finish in last year's championship indicated.
Russia - 2nd
Having lost the final game last year to the Czechs, the Russians should be hungry, and they have a good team this year. Then again, you never know with these guys. Needless to say, going home without a medal would be a huge disappointment, and I expect to see them first or second in the qualifying round and in the final.
Slovakia - 12th
Home tournaments are a funny thing. Generally, the host country will either do well, boosted by the home crowd and their pride in playing in front of their fans, or they'll crash and burn spectacularly because of the pressure. I'm not sure which Slovakia is going to do here, but I'm pessimistic. On the one hand, they have an impressive lineup, all the way from world champions Miroslav Satan on down, with the superb Jaroslav Halak in goal. On the other, I saw the practice games they played against Team Finland, where they were absolutely rubbish. Coach Glen Hanlon's uninspiring trap won't serve too well here either. Last year, they finished a dismal 12th, and this year they'll be hard-pressed to secure an advantageous quarterfinal berth in a tough qualifying round. I hate to say it, but I'm afraid the home fans will be disappointed this year.
Germany - 4th
The Germans surpassed themselves last year with a place in the bronze medal game. With their low world ranking, they'll need to beat either the Russians, Slovaks, Czechs or Finns to get a quarterfinal place. Keep an eye on the Germany-Slovakia game in the opening round on May 3rd; it's going to be a big one for the home team.
Slovenia - promoted from 1st division
Finally, the country that gave us Laibach, Mina Špiler and Anže Kopitar is back in the world championships. I'm a big fan of Slovenia, but they'll need to pull a major upset to avoid the relegation round. Their real fight is there, and it'll be tough.
Canada - 7th
It's a common refrain among Finnish announcers and commentators that the Russians and Czechs, with what is occasionally and appallingly called their "Slavic mentality", are the kind of teams that either show up or don't. If that is to some extent true of them, both North American national teams are even better examples of teams where everything is secondary to whether the players happen to be motivated or not. The net result is that on any givevn day, it's next to impossible to tell how their teams will play. Last year, we picked Canada to win the tournament, and they crashed out in the quarterfinals. It's the same story again this year; on paper, the Canadian team is strong, but who knows how they'll play? An easy opening round won't help them get geared up for the tournament, although they've had surprising difficulties with Switzerland over the last few years. Only the qualifying round will give any idea how they're going to do.
Switzerland - 5th
My native country has really upped its game over the past decade or so, and can now be relied upon to show up in the quarterfinals and challenge the bigger hockey countries. Unless something surprising happens above or below them in the standings, they should have the fourth quarterfinal spot in this qualifying round locked down. A win there would be a major upset, so they'll likely finish with a similar rank this year as before.
Belarus - 10th
An enigmatic team, sometimes Belarus pulls off a proper upset, and not always with help from Tommy Salo's glove. In fairness, it was the team in front of him that lost the game, but the Swedes prefer to blame Salo because he has a Finnish name. Expect a finish in the qualifying round, as they shouldn't have much trouble putting France away.
France - 14th
The plucky French team has had a surprisingly good showing at the world champs. A few years ago in Canada, they would even have beaten Sweden if the refs didn't always heavily favor the higher-ranked countries. This year, the fight in the relegation round is likely to be stiff enough that the French will, unfortunately, lose the tournament and end up back in the first division.
Sweden - 3rd
Bengt-Åke Gustafsson ended his national team coaching career in an, erm, memorable way last year, and the new guy is in this year. By all accounts, though, it's still pretty much the same Team Sweden as it was in Gustafsson's last years: straightforward, physical, even dirty. With a whole bunch of NHL players along for the ride this year, the Swedes should be a force to be reckoned with, but their abysmally bad offensive play in the last EHT tournament was a surprise. If they get their goalscoring going, they'll do well again.
USA - 13th
The US national team oscillates between an excellent, aggressive young hockey team and a total fiasco that ends up in the relegation round. We'll see which one shows up this year. They don't have a very difficult opening or qualifying round ahead of them, but while they should get to the quarterfinals, I expect that to be the end of the road for them unless they seriously overachieve.
Norway - 9th
Norway has been a rising hockey power ever since making it back into the main championship tournament, and they fell just short of the quarterfinals last year. Look for Norway to do well again this year; at the very least, they should make life uncomfortable for the Americans and Swedes in the opening round and fight their way to a good qualifying round finish.
Austria - promoted from 1st division
Every time I've seen the Austrians play at the top level, I've liked them: they play an entertaining, energetic kind of hockey. This year, though, the Norwegians will be a hard nut to crack, and failure there will most likely mean the relegation round, which will be very tough this year. So I'm very much afraid there's a good chance Austria will end up right back in the first division.
Finland - 6th
In hockey, Finland is a nation of goaltenders, checking forwards and offensive defensemen. Having said that, this is the first time for ages that Finland is going into a major international tournament with serious questions about its goaltending. It looks like Petri Vehanen from the KHL will take up the number-one spot, and that's not the level of goaltending Finland is used to. However, that's not the big problem; even the normal mix of checking forwards and has-beens from the European leagues at forward doesn't worry me. In fact, as far as forwards are concerned, this is one of the best world championship teams Finland has fielded for a long time.
The problem is, again, the D. If I go on about that, it's only because in my opinion, in hockey as she is played today, the defensemen are by far the most important part of the team. This year, like so many times before, Team Finland's management has been unable or unwilling to recruit enough solid stay-at-home defensemen for the national team. The team is once again overloaded with offensive or two-way defensemen, despite the fact that the defensive end has been nothing but trouble in the previous years. I don't know what the thinking is in the team management, but the Finnish media at least is unanimous in exaggerating the importance of goaltending.
Another extremely strange failing is the constant underachieving of Team Finland's power play under head coach Jalonen. It's bizarre that year in, year out, the Finnish power play is a confused mess. Watching the last EHT tournament, I couldn't even tell what play the PP was trying to set up. Needless to say, they didn't have much success. Frankly, when the players change but the problem remains, you have to look behind the bench. Given the lack of solid defensive D-men, Finland will likely struggle in both aspects of special teams.
On the good side, several players look set for an impressive coming-out championships. Finland's supposed sniper Juhamatti Aaltonen was worse than useless last year, but judging from his pre-tournament play, he's taken a big step forward. I still don't understand how the country that produced Teemu Selänne can call a guy like him a sniper, but this year he's using his speed to good effect with an energetic forechecking game. On the special teams front, centerman Petteri Nokelainen has been playing a very strong pre-tournament and will likely do well in that spot at the championships.
Finland probably won't do exceptionally poorly in the opening or qualifying rounds, but the odds are that in the quarterfinals they'll be facing either Canada, the US or Sweden. All are teams that play a straightforward, physical offensive game, which Finland's weak D won't be able to stop. Similar team, similar story: expect the Finns to drop out in the quarterfinals.
Having said that, I have a good feeling about this Team Finland that I can't explain at all. It's sort of barely conceivable that the forwards can make up for the team's defensive deficiencies and take Finland into the medal games. It's probably wishful thinking, but I'm feeling strangely optimistic.
Czech Republic - 1st
A year or so ago, it looked like the Czechs' hockey star was on the wane. After some lackluster championship performances and another thoroughly forgettable Euro Hockey Tour, the number of Czech players being drafted was in a steep decline. Then they surprised everyone by winning the 2010 world championship. This year, the EHT was a poor showing again, until their home tournament last weekend when they came alive. Jaromír Jágr is still with us and looking a lot like his old self, and in front of their fanatical home crowd, the Czechs played great in the last EHT tournament. Many of those fans will follow them across the border to what is, after all, nearly a home tournament for the Czechs. They'll do well again this year.
Latvia - 11th
Another waning Eastern European country, judging from their play in pre-tournament friendlies against Finland the Latvians aren't going to be terribly impressive. Another big opening round game will be on May 4th: Latvia-Denmark. If they can fight off Denmark and avoid the relegation round, they'll pretty much have maxed out the tournament. If Denmark wins and they end up in the relegation round, they'll make life very difficult for the other countries in there.
Denmark - 8th
Coming off an excellent eighth-place finish and quarterfinal berth in last year's championship, this year my favorite national team's first challenge is to make sure the Latvians, not them, end up in the relegation series. Sadly, they're not likely to beat the Czechs or Finns, but they'll put up a good fight. With good qualifying round games against the Slovaks and Germans, a repeat of the quarterfinals isn't impossible; on the other hand, a loss to Latvia will send them to the tough relegation series, where the Danes have unfortunately collapsed before. Out of all the teams in the tournament, they have the widest range of potential finishes.
Next year will be a different year in Finland, with commercial television in the form of MTV3 handling the telecasts of the world championships. That may or may not be a good thing. They also did the Euro Hockey Tour this year, and there was a bit of a mêlée at the end of the Finland-Russia game yesterday after a hit by Tuomo Ruutu. He got a game misconduct, and the commentators were shocked and horrified by this terrible miscarriage of justice, because it was a clean hit!
Here's an appallingly bad video of the hit:
Sure, that's a clean hit. In an NHL game. Now, we're big fans of Tuomo Ruutu here, but on the EHT, international rules are in use, and that is as obvious an example of a hit to the head as you can ask for. His shoulder makes direct contact with the Russian player's head. When a player is hit in the head and injured, the player delivering the hit gets a 5+20 minute penalty and a game misconduct. That's the rule. And I would expect people who are paid money to announce and commentate on the game to know that.
Inexplicably, jatkoaika.com, who I usually consider a fairly good source of hockey news, insists the hit was clean because Ruutu didn't have his hands up. If they can point out the clause in the rulebook that says a head hit is legal as long as the hitter's hands are down, I'll be very interested.
The coverage on Yle was, to say the least, biased; it looks like MTV3 may be worse.
So there we are! I don't feel up to putting together a detailed prediction this year, but unless something weird happens, I expect to see Russia, the Czech Republic, Canada and Sweden in the medal games, so business as usual. It would be nice to see Finland play for a medal, as well as the home team, but I don't really find either possibility very likely.
Until, that is, hours before this publishes on my blog, Anaheim's first line decided they're not going to show up for the playoffs at all and the Ducks were eliminated. There are four Finnish players on the Ducks' roster; if any three of them join, I expect a medal for Finland. A fourth line of Komarov-Nokelainen-J.Ruutu would be simply perfect, Toni Lydman would make me feel a hell of a lot better about the quarterfinal, and Saku Koivu and Teemu Selänne are, well, themselves. Like I said, any three of them join the team and I believe Finland will win a medal.
All in all, I hope we'll get another interesting championship like last year.
Apr 22, 2011
It's almost a little disturbing to be calling her hot after seeing her in a movie when she was, what, seven? But she's a woman now, and as if she isn't beautiful enough anyway, she has a crazy hot flapper thing going on.
Apr 21, 2011
Apr 19, 2011
Apr 18, 2011
Now to the actual movie.
I can't believe the bad press this movie has got. You saw the trailer and the poster, and based on those, you should have been expecting an action movie with console game visuals.
The action sequences are awesome, and I absolutely loved them. As an added bonus, the soundtrack is excellent. The narration is very crisp, with none of the usual repetition and beating us over the head with the clue bat that we're all getting used to.
There is, however, a sucker punch that you really don't see coming. Namely, that this movie has a real, serious, feminist message. Now, this is apparently too much for some critics. To quote Wikipedia for a particularly glaring example:
A.O. Scott of The New York Times described the film as a "fantasia of misogyny" that pretends to be a "feminist fable of empowerment" and found that the film's treatment of sexual violence was problematic.
I mean, oh my God, you can see some of her thigh. Quick, call Andrea Dworkin.
As a feminist, this enrages me. There is a serious, powerful feminist message in this movie, but it seems that our movie critics go so bananas when they see Emily Browning in a miniskirt that they can't detect it.
Without spoiling anything, the central theme of the movie is the way in which men can use the structures of society to inflict violence on women. The film treats psychiatry as a charade to enforce proper gendered behavior and as a form of violence, used by men on women to make them conform. The plot of the movie is victimized women fighting against gendered oppression.
And because they do it while looking hot, it's suddenly objectification.
In many cases, including this one, objectification is in the eye of the objectifier. I can't think of anything more demeaning, oppressive and downright patriarchal as dismissing this movie by reducing its female characters to pure eye candy just because of the clothes they're wearing.
The film operates on multiple levels, kind of like Inception except that it doesn't suck. The critics seem to be totally fixated on the level that deals with sexuality, and can't see past that to the actual scope of the movie, which deals with psychiatry, lobotomy and patriarchy. Instead, the overwhelmingly male critics seem to be, quite frankly, thinking with their dicks. To me, and the people I saw the film with, characterizing it as pornography is appalling. That's seriously not far removed from calling Schindler's List a glorification of genocide.
But this is the world of movies. Had the same crew and cast made a dreary, depressing drama movie about a woman wrongly committed to a mental institution, the same reviewers would be hailing it as a wonderful paean to female liberation. But because it's a kick-ass action movie, it isn't allowed to have a real theme. If it has a woman in it, she must by definition be only a sexual object. The critics won't let her be anything else.
So in that sense, the film succeeds as feminist empowerment on two levels: not only is the story and theme itself a strong feminist message, but it very brashly exposes what radical feminism has turned into. The critics, in all likelihood believing themselves to be great feminists and doing a good thing, have taken a kickass feminist movie and in the name of feminism, condemned it for violating gender roles. The director is presenting women wrong! The radical feminist orthodoxy seems to currently be that women must not ever be presented as sexy, because that will always be objectifying.
So in other words, in the name of feminism, these "feminists" want to ban women as sexual beings from the movie screen. Female sexuality is only allowed to appear in strictly controlled, radical-feminist-approved contexts like a homemade porn movie shot with a cellphone camera that gets shown at movie festivals. If a female feminist director makes a movie about kickass women, that's great and empowering, but if a male director makes a Hollywood movie that's feminist and kicks ass, that's horrible objectification.
You know what? Fuck you. I thoroughly enjoyed Sucker Punch, and I think it has a very powerful and important message. That so many critics can't be bothered to watch it as a serious movie with a serious message but print their knee-jerk dismissal just confirms me in my belief that movie critics are among the lowest forms of human life to bedevil this planet.
So seriously, screw you guys. I'm going to go see it again.
Apr 15, 2011
* The system *
Using the d'Hondt method of proportional representation, the Finnish people will elect 200 members of parliament from 15 electoral districts. One of them is the autonomous region of Åland, annexed by Finland against the wishes of its Swedish-speaking inhabitants in 1918 and an unwilling participant in Finnish politics ever since with its single representative in parliament. The other 199 are elected from mainland Finland. Last time around, in 2007, as much as 65% of the electorate turned up to cast almost three million votes.
After the elections, the party with the most seats in parliament is designated to form a cabinet. Normally, the chairman of that party becomes prime minister, and he puts together a coalition of parties to form a cabinet that commands a majority in parliament. Almost all cabinets are based around two of the "big three" parties, with assorted smaller parties tagging along to make up the numbers.
The Finnish political system is incredibly dysfunctional. All real political decisions are made behind closed doors by the leaders of the parties, who control their MPs' votes in parliament, although the Greens pretend they're different by allowing the occasional few to vote against the party line. As a result, the real mechanisms of Finnish politics are invisible to the public and impervious to their influence, except every four years when the voters effectively get to decide which member of the good old boys' club gets to speak a little louder than the others.
I'll describe each party in terms of their social attitudes (liberal - conservative) and economic policies (right-wing - left-wing). These are all terms that need to be taken in a Finnish context; for example, in the field of economic policy, all parties, including the ones described as right-wing, are generally committed to maintaining Finland's gigantic public sector, massive income redistribution through a Byzantine welfare system and huge agricultural and area subsidies. Similarly, most socially liberal parties will not be opposed to male conscription or favor the separation of church and state, to take a few examples.
In reality, the practical differences between Finnish parties, or at least the ones large enough to be taken seriously, are minute. For most of the 1990s, the country was ruled by the "rainbow cabinet" that included almost every party in parliament, including the extreme right and extreme left. Those two parties held the two treasury appointments. That they were able to do so in concert should really demonstrate to everyone one that Finnish politics is basically a sham to deceive people into thinking that the country isn't actually run by an oligarcy of civil servants and party bosses.
* The players *
Agrarian Party (Keskusta) - 50 seats
Officially named the "Center Party" or whatever, the Agrarians are just that, the largest party in every electoral district north of the back of beyond. They were the largest party after the 2007 elections, and were thus in charge of forming the current cabinet. It was headed by the former prime minister, who later met a woman on the Internet but lied that he'd met her in Ikea, and became embroiled in a scandal over election contributions to his party. He is generally considered to be guilty of blatant corruption, but no charges were filed because there is no corruption in Finland. He was eventually replaced by someone else.
The Agrarians are socially conservative and economically mildly right-wing. While their conservative roots might otherwise make them economically more right-wing, their only real agenda is pork-barrel politics: Agrarian MPs are elected from the rural districts on the understanding that they will maintain Finland's gigantic agricultural subsidies and bring a few infrastructure projects their district's way every now and then. As a result, Finland produces sugar and a huge surplus of food, and is decorated by several massive, beautiful bridges that lead absolutely nowhere. It is expected that the party will be somewhat hurt by the election money scandal, but in the end, the pork barrel will carry the rural field like it always has.
The Gathering (Kokoomus) - 51 seats
Yes, I know, they're officially the "Coalition Party" or something immensely boring like that. Frankly, a Highlander reference is much better. If you prefer the Dutch heavy metal band, that's fine too.
Currently in cabinet, the Gathering is socially slightly conservative and economically right-wing. Long the bastion of Finnish right-wing politics, the Gathering was out of power during the Cold War when Finnish politics were subject to Moscow's veto. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall they have wielded the sceptre of fiscal responsibility (in Finnish terms) as the only party to come out decisively in favor of combating Finland's burgeoning debt deficit with public sector cuts. Wikileaks would also have us believe that they plan to have Finland join NATO, but few people in this country will take an effeminate Swedish alleged sexual predator's word on anything. Nonetheless, passionately hating the Gathering is the favorite activity of Finland's red-green angry young people, who blame them for everything, which makes them Finland's equivalent of the Republicans or Tories.
When the 2007 election results came in, the Agrarians were the largest party in parliament with 51 representatives; the Gathering had 50. Since then, one of the Green MPs has defected to the Gathering, and the Agrarians lost the captain of Finland's national bobsleigh, erm, curling team to defection, making the Gathering currently the largest party. They're expected to stay that way, which means that in all likelihood they'll be in charge of forming the next cabinet.
Social Democrat party (SDP) - 45 seats
After their Soviet-backed Finnish communist revolution was defeated in 1918 by the simultaneous German-backed Finnish fascist revolution, those Social Democrats who hadn't either fled to the Soviet Union or been shot by the Whites in a concentration camp got down to the business of moderate left-wing politics. They like to claim responsibility for the Finnish welfare state, kind of like how the Russians have at some point claimed that every invention in the world was actually invented in Russia. The Social Democrats are to Finland's central labor union what Sinn Féin was to the IRA.
The Social Democrats are socially middle-of-the-road and economically left-wing. For a while, it looked like they were in danger of being usurped by the Green party after losing eight seats in the previous elections, but the economic crisis has seemed to revive the Social Democrats' flagging fortunes and they remain one of Finland's "big three" parties. Their main focus is on opposing public sector and welfare cuts.
Leftist Alliance (Vasemmistoliitto) - 17 seats
After Finland lost the Second World War, the Soviet Union mandated that the previously banned Communist party be allowed to reform. It did so as the SKDL, which was the Moscow-based Finnish Communist Party's front organization in Finland, i.e. of the guys who fled to Moscow after the civil war. After the Soviets went the way of the dodo, the SKDL soldiered on and has since metamorphosed into a vaguely angry, anti-nuclear young leftist party run by a former football hooligan.
The leftists are socially liberal and economically about as left-wing as it gets, at least in parliament. Their fortunes have been boosted by the economic crisis and the blatantly dishonest nuclear policies of the Green party, which they oppose with dogmatic anti-nukeism.
Green Party (Vihreät) - 15 seats
The Finnish environmental movement started when some people chained themselves to logging machines or something back whenever, and they've since made the transition from a couple of eccentrics in cardigans to a major political party that's been in cabinet since the early 90's. Getting their hands on the reins of power has come at a price, and the Greens' critics accuse them of selling their principles. At the same time, their stand in favor of gay marriage and against racism has made the Greens to conservatives what the Gathering are to left-wingers: the fount of all evil. One particularly prominent Internet racist who's running for parliament maintains that Finland is actually run by a cabal of Green feminist women who are in cahoots with the liberal media.
The Greens are socially liberal and economically vaguely left-wing. The Green party is decidedly anti-nuclear, which has manifested itself in practice by them being in several cabinets that have voted to build more nuclear power plants. They also consider themselves social liberals, which is carried out in practice by voting for repressive Internet censorship laws and the right of employers to spy on their employees.
Swedish Party (Ruotsalainen kansanpuolue) - 9 seats
The Swedish party exists for the sole purpose of forcing Finnish schoolchildren to study Swedish and making sure Swedish-speaking Finns can waltz into any public facility in the country and demand service in Swedish. Swedish-speaking people vote for them.
The Swedes are socially liberalish and economically sort of right wing. In practice, they'll participate in any coalition government that maintains the status quo in language politics.
Christian Democrats (Kristillisdemokraatit) - 7 seats
Finland's version of Christian Conservatives, the Christian Democrats occasionally cause media outrage by being themselves. Last year, they triggered a mass exodus from the Finnish state Lutheran church by pointing out on state television that buttsex makes Baby Jesus cry.
The Christian Democrats are socially conservative, by which they mean that they hate gays, and economically middle-of-the-road. Religious loonies vote for them.
Finnish Fundamentalist Party (Perussuomalaiset) - 5 seats
The name of the party is actually quite difficult to translate. Last I checked, their official English-language name was "True Finns", which has probably been selected to imply an earlier Finnish political movement (aitosuomalaiset). "Perus" properly translates as basic or fundamental, as in basic course or fundamental principle. So in my opinion, it's either the Basic Finns or the Finnish Fundamentalist Party, and I prefer the latter. I also earlier suggested calling them the Base Finns.
The Finnish Fundamentalists are socially conservative and economically left-wing. The roots of the party are in an agrarian populist movement called the SMP, run by Veikko Vennamo back in the past. Their previous populist insurgency was headed by the late Tony Halme, better known to pro wrestling fans as Ludwig Borga, and yielded few results.
This time around, the Fundamentalists are still something of a protest movement, basically running on a platform of populism, disaffection with the larger parties, opposition to welfare cuts and jingoism. Their candidates include several members of a quasi-fascist organization called Suomen Sisu, dedicated among other things to preserving the racial purity of Finland, who have focused their energies on mobilizing Finnish racism into a political force euphemistically referred to as "immigration criticism". They are largely responsible for immigration being one of the major talking points of the election, and have brought about a situation where, in the middle of an economic crisis, one of their leading candidates refuses point-blank to even discuss economic policy, because he's only interested in the nefarious effects of African immigration into Finland. Among their other candidates is a Belgian holocaust denier who has confessed in public to enjoying prostitutes.
The Fundamentalists have also produced, among other things, a cultural program that calls for the elimination of state funding to "postmodern art" and the encouragement of patriotic art that celebrates Finnishness. They are also opposed to Finland's membership in the European Union, and development aid. As far as any economic program can be discerned, it is a broadly left-wing one, against cuts and in favor of increased taxation. Before the elections, the former captain of Finland's national curling team defected from the Agrarian party to the Fundamentalists, and proposed solving the economic crisis and the poverty problem by printing money.
In the 2007 elections, the Fundamentalist Party more than doubled their share of the vote, from ~1.5% in 2003 to 4%, netting a total of five seats. Since then, their popularity has skyrocketed with the rise of political racism and discontent with the ruling parties, to the point where the wildest opinion polls have them displacing one of the three major parties.
Other (Borgerlig Allians -yhteislista) - 1 seat
The representative from Åland. Damned if I know anything about politics in Åland. Hell, they don't even let mainland Finnish people buy land there without a special permit. For all I know, when the rest of us have elections, these guys re-enact the Wicker Man and have the guy with the best costume represent them.
* Also starring *
There's a whole melange of parties without representatives in parliament trying to acquire some. Here's a couple.
The Pirate Party
Judging from their election propaganda, the Finnish Pirate Party is in favor of smoking pot, ass-raping record executives and employing immigrant women as prostitutes. I'm a member, but having just written that, I'm not entirely sure why. I don't smoke pot, so it's probably the hookers.
The Independence Party
A rabidly anti-EU party that boasts several seemingly insane candidates dedicated to opposing the New World Order that threatens us all with gay marriage, hoaxed moon landings and chemtrails. It is actually so difficult to tell whether or not their candidates' blogs are parodies that I'm not sure this party actually exists.
The Finnish Workers' Party
An avowedly socialist party, the chairman of the Finnish Workers' Party participated in a "small parties'" debate on Finnish state television. The presenter described his party as representing Russian interests in Finland, and the chairman didn't contradict him. They boast such candidates as a Finnish vicar who is in favor of reintegrating Finland into Russia, and a Finnish academic who organized a rally opposing Sofi Oksanen's latest book because it was anti-Soviet. The rally was attended by him, a bunch of Putin-Jugend from Russia and the Finnish Islamic Party. Apparently the Islamic Party's chairman and the academic in question have the same KGB handler.
The Communist Workers' Party
The People's Liberation Front of Judea to the Finnish Workers' Party's Judean People's Liberation Front, the Communist Workers' party demands the introduction of a planned economy on Marxist-Leninist principles. I can't think of anything to follow that sentence with.
* Major talking points *
Here, at this virtual water cooler, I'll sum up what Finland is talking about leading up to these elections.
That Freedom Party woman who thinks the New World Order is poisoning us with chemtrails
Seriously, what the fuck.
The biggest hot-button topic of the election is immigration. Specifically, immigrants from Africa who are taking our jobs and raping our women, according to our vocal "immigration criticalists" (THEY TOOK OUR JOBS!). Now, even though immigration criticalitists insist that all Africans are criminals and all Arabs are terrorists and we mustn't let them into our country to sully our precious bodily fluids, you're not allowed to call them racists, so we have to call them immigration criticalizers.
For context, Finland has the least foreign-born inhabitants per capita of practically any European country. We also spend at most something like 1% of our state budget on issues related to immigration. So in terms of reality, this is a non-issue. However, through several blogs aggressively dedicated to the idea that all foreigners, or at least all differently colored foreigners, are evil, the immigration criticalizationists succeeded in making the impervious horror of immigration the mega-issue to end all issues of this election.
Previously, in the municipal elections, the simple device of running a blog that sensationalized crimes committed by foreigners and was rude about Islam propelled an obscure academic into the Helsinki municipal council with a landslide. Once in that council, he proceeded to do absolutely nothing about anything. He is the man who, in the middle of an economic crisis, refuses to answer questions about economic policy or the deficit, and in general seems to have no opinions on anything except that foreigners are unspeakably evil. And on that platform, he's practically a lock for parliament.
I genuinely believe that future generations of Finnish political historians are going to look at the early 2000's, when our state and economy are teetering on the brink of collapse, and then look at the issues we were spending our time on and wonder what the hell was wrong with us.
The rise of the Finnish Fundamentalists
The biggest talking point of them all is that according to the polls, the Fundamentalists may get big enough to actually factor into the cabinet negotiations. The craziest predictions at one point had them winning the elections outright, installing a Catholic populist with a nonsensical political agenda as our prime minister. In retrospect, that appears exaggerated, but it seems sure that their share of the vote will go way up from the 4% they drew last time.
In a way, the Fundies are like Obama: a hell of a lot of people seem to have an unreasonable faith in them being somehow different from other politicians. It's going to work out the same way.
What have they ever done for us anyway?
So there you go; you're ready for Sunday! As you watch the elections, remember that according to a poll, half of all candidates want to limit access to the dangerous and potentially lethal dihydrogen monoxide. No, really.
Good night, and good luck.
Apr 14, 2011
Apr 13, 2011
To start, though, I'd lke to revisit my pre-season predictions.
This is partly for vindictive reasons. After I posted my season preview, a writer at a Minnesota hockey blog got all sniffy about it:
Read about how the Wild have a scoring duo of Koivu and Havlat, play the trap, and are boring. Yes, it really was posted today.
To be fair, boredom is in the eye of the beholder; anyone who identifies as a Wild fan is unlikely to find the Wild boring. I, on the other hand, did. The other items are more amenable to verification, though. I'll admit we don't see many Wild games over here - they're mostly on at really inconvenient times - but last time I checked, namely the last game of the season, when the Wild turned the puck over, they settled into a forechecking formation with one forward up high, two deeper and the two defensemen behind them. Or, in numerical terms, a 1-2-2. Now, I don't know what you call that in Minnesota, but here in the old country we call that a trap.
As for scoring, guess who the Wild's top two regular season scorers were? Yeah. Martin Havlat and Mikko Koivu. I'd also be remiss if I didn't point out that I did predict the Wild wouldn't make the playoffs, and they didn't. So now, 82 games after the prediction that these guys got so sniffy about, I'd just like to point out that I was dead on the money.
Hey, Don Cherry does this stuff all the time.
With that out of the way, I can say that overall, I'm fairly happy with my picks. I correctly picked five out of six division winners, the only failure being New Jersey. Now, I admit it's a big failure, but I was hardly alone in expecting them to do much better this season. Also, out of the teams I put in the fuhgeddaboudit category, none made it to the playoffs. In all seriousness, given the amount and quality of information I'm operating on, I think that went surprisingly well.
Now I'll proceed to destroy my credibility with some rather unoriginal but probably nonetheless wildly mistaken playoff picks.
Caps - Rangers: Caps
Surely the Caps must win this series. The only way the Capitals' season makes any sense is if their new brand of less flashy, more solid hockey is designed for a playoff drive. If they fall flat on the first round against an opponent as anemic as the injury-riddled Rangers and their deep-playing goaltender, it will be a total disaster.
Flyers - Sabres: Flyers
The Sabres did well to get into the playoffs, and it looks like the change in ownership might have them heading in the right direction. However, given how strong Philadelphia was both this season and in last year's playoffs, it would be a huge upset if they got past the Flyers.
Bruins - Habs: Habs
I consider the Bruins somewhat overrated anyway, and the fact that the Habs dominated the season series should count for something. It'll be close, but my money's on the Habs.
Pens - Bolts: Bolts
This one is tough to call. It's tempting to talk about the up-and-coming Bolts and the seasoned Penguins, but in fact, there's been plenty of turnover in the Penguins' roster since their trips to the final, and some continuity in the Bolts from theirs. Overall, I think the more dynamic Bolts will win it; Bylsma's trap might have been enough to get the Pens into the post-season, but with their playoff MVP out of action, I doubt the Pens have the offense to win. It's going to be tough, and the first few games are key: if the Pens can frustrate the Tampa offense early, they have a good shot at winning.
Nucks - Hawks: Hawks
I'm going out on a limb here, but this isn't any fun if you don't. I think the Hawks' energetic forecheck, the offense they get from their D-men and the playoff experience gathered over last year's Cup run will power the Hawks into the second round. Sure, Vancouver has a strong team, but their past few playoffs have fallen well short. The question is: have they taken those final few steps that will turn them into a postseason force? If so, they're favorites to be in at least the conference final, if not contending for the Cup. If not, the Hawks will kick their ass.
Sharks - Kings: Sharks
The same question goes double for the Sharks, who've dominated the regular season but failed in the playoffs enough times already. I think they'll do better this year, and the Kings still need several pieces more before they're ready for a really deep playoff run.
Wings - Yotes: Wings
If the Wings' last regular season game against Chicago is anything to go by, they've still got some of the magic that propelled them to the Cup. I don't see them going all the way, although it isn't impossible, but at the very least expect them to put up a good fight.
Ducks - Preds: Ducks
The Preds have been touted as the team nobody wants to face in the postseason, but in my opinion, that title belongs squarely with Anaheim. Again, it'll be a tough fight, but Anaheim's experience, physical play and offensive power will overwhelm the Predators.
Overall I think that in many ways, the NHL is in a good place right now. I'm looking forward to a really good playoffs, with several excellent series coming up. There's a bit of everything: established teams with recent Cup wins, teams struggling to convert regular season success into good post-season play, young up-and-comers and a couple of real underdogs that might have some big surprises in store.
I can't wait for the first game!
Before that, though, it's time to acknowledge an NHL milestone: in the last game of the regular season, one of our favorite players made hockey history. At 06:44 in the first period, Anaheim's Jarkko Ruutu took a two-minute penalty for roughing, which propelled him to a total of 1078 career PIMs, setting a record for Finnish-born NHL players. The previous incumbent was, of course, Esa Tikkanen.
It was a clean hit! Don't believe me? Watch the video.
And now he's the NHL's all-time Finnish leader in regular season penalty minutes. Go Rudi! We love you.
In a manly way, of course.
Apr 6, 2011
Her Playmate shoot is by far my favorite one, but this is really the only picture I can post from it without violating Google rules. The image of her emerging nude from a copper washtub puts the Venus of Milo to shame.
Apr 4, 2011
Not only is the idea of an underground forest incredibly sweet, but a supply of lumber would mean I could skip the trips to the surface to get more wood for tools.
Here we go!
My first ever underground tree!
While it's growing, I'll get back to the mining. My current plan is to dig an underground tunnel from my home base to Twin Tower. But since I've already dug a simple tunnel from my base to my first tower, I want to do something rather more interesting.
The tutorials at the Minecraft Wiki recommend building a quarry to gather rock and minerals. I should do something like that to get my hands on all the goodies like gold, diamonds, redstone and whatnot, but my problem is that a quarry is just so... ugly.
So my solution is an underground quarry.
I never have to go up on the surface again. Take that, death cactus!
Meanwhile, Phase 1 of my great underground project is pretty much finished. Not only are the underground trees growing, but my chasm is looking pretty good:
I fully realize that it's obvious both from the context and the pictures themselves that all this is, in fact, underground, but I like to say underground base.
My next project is turning this rockface into a great underground hall that leads all the way to Twin Tower.
I'll go do that now.
Apr 1, 2011
If porn star Jenna Presley was cursed with a bad birthday, though, it was made up for with looks.