Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Sometimes it feels like I am the only one who believes that the world is actually getting better (not everything in the world, but on average).

I know this is not the case, and that the people who tend to say that the world is going to hell in a handbasket are just understandably more vocal about it. It's probably a healthy phenomenon, too: the people who are unhappy with some changes are making justified noise about those changes.

To me the progress is self-evident: look what a shithole the world was 150 years ago, look what a bigger shithole it was 1500 years ago, etc. The are occasionally some very troubled times and places, that are worse off than the same place was a little earlier, but in general the world is getting better.

There is one thing I am wondering about, though: I have heard many mostly-sensible people say that it was probably not all that bad 200 years ago. I have never heard anyone remotely sensible (this excludes homicidal eco-philosophers) say that it not all that bad that some people live that way now: without clean water, or antibiotics, or other similar trappings of modernity.

Monday, May 24, 2010

First Blood (spoilers)

Saw First Blood for the first time ever. I knew what it was about; what surprised me is that almost all the characters had that single-mindedness normally reserved for the Evil Guy's nameless henchmen.

OK, the protagonist has obvious mental problems. OK, the sheriff liked to be mean to helpless drifters (that kind of people usually tend to back off when the victim turns out to be not so helpless, but let's assume this one was dedicated to being mean). OK, some cops probably hit the uncooperative detainees with only like-minded cops for witnesses.

But a police officer trying to shoot and kill a fugitive? In the presence of a disapproving colleague? And then threatening to kill that same colleague for trying to stop him? While the colleague is piloting the helicopter from which the shooter is sticking out with no safety belt, and only his butt inside?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

My contribution to the Everyone Draw Muhammed Day

I totally suck at drawing, so I made a photo collage reflecting my view of the guy.

The best contribution I've seen so far was Iowahawk's (via the Fourth Checkraise).

Misery! Misery! Pain!

Got a flu. Didn't go to a party today, probably not gonna go to a party tomorrow, unfortunately did go to a party-like event yesterday and now feel guilty about infecting everyone.

Blaah. Running out of tissues, too.

It was his own damn fault!

I guess blaming people for their own troubles is a basic human need, along with water, food, sleep, etc. I am not sure where it comes from - probably the wish to distance oneself from the trouble ("the victim has done something unwise, and I won't, therefore it won't happen to me") or take some control over it ("I have done something wrong and shit happened, and I won't do it again and shit won't happen ever again").

Doubtless a lot of people get in trouble after doing a lot of unwise things. Nevertheless some shit just happens without anyone doing anything unwise. More to the point, we tend to judge the risk and wisdom of the actions by the final result.

Decent people tend to suppress the impulse to blame the victim unless either a) the victim's stupidity was somewhere in the Darwin Awards class and the victim is nowhere within hearing range, or b) the blame is in fact constructive, as in telling a person who spends all his/her time at home and bemoans the absence of a sex partner that they should visit some venue where the potential sex partners congregate.

Some people, and some cultures as well, still haven't got the idea. My family keeps yelling at me and each other every time we get a common cold, which is fairly often. My way of dealing with it is not telling them unless it happens when I see them in person; their idea is that the common cold should be avoided by wearing a lot of clothes and avoiding the people who have it, although the former is useless and the latter impossible.

Another interesting case is blaming the woman for going to a man's place and getting raped there. It's very common in Russia, less common in the US and even less in Finland unless the man belonged to some ethnicity overrepresented in rape statistics, but it does exist. The funny thing is in all the three cultures visiting a man at night is considered a fairly normal thing to do if no rape has occurred (well, varies a bit by subculture). By some coincidence I have met many men (and women, but for them I don't have a point of comparison) who blamed women for coming to a man's place and getting raped, but I have never met a man who'd warn me against visiting his place, or inviting him to mine, or showing a slightest surprise or shock at my unwise actions. None of them ever tried anything ungentlemanly, either, unless you count the guy who wanted to talk about Catholicism instead of sex.

Anyway, these thoughts came to me after a recent rape case in Russia: a well-known artist and a friend of his allegedly raped - she has injuries and a witness a 17-year-old student and a whole bunch of people are saying "why did she go to his place, didn't she know what was gonna happen?" I am not sure they are helping his case in court, even in Russia.

The really surreal moment came when during that discussion somebody mentioned a soldier who got raped and maimed by two women, and the reaction was pretty much the same: "what was he thinking, didn't he know what was gonna happen?" Right. Because I am sure young women perform aggravated rape and aggravated battery on careless soldiers all the time.

My other particular favorite is the people who blame the victims of unpredictable natural disasters for being or living there when the disaster happened.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Some people should be castrated three times a day with a rusty chainsaw

Russian scams have become more common in Finland and elsewhere lately. They've been common in Russia for a while now, but I had no reason to know about them. Finnish media doesn't write about them much, or at all, because they are never directed at Finns. It's kind of hard to convince a Finn that his kid has gotten into a car accident and a Russian-speaking police officer would like a bribe. Really, I am surprised even Russians believe it.

During the last few months, and especially the last few days, Russian-speaking people in Finland have received phone calls saying their their son was into a bad car accident in Lithuania and needs a lot of money right fucking now (with a young man screaming for his mom in the background, and other theatrics). They have posted about it on the Russian forum here, which is how I know about it; most of them just laughed it off, because this kind of thing is easy to laugh off when you have no children, or your only child is a daughter, or your son is just in the process of learning to eat baby food.

Today, however, I've heard something beyond all imagination, and not from a forum - from the blog of a real-life friend.

Her elderly parents (in Russia) got a phone call, ostensibly from their local health center, saying that the father's blood test shows he has a very severe case of leukemia. His own doctor could not speak to them because her husband just got murdered; they got transfered from one person to another until they got some famous Kremlin oncologist. They were told that their only hope is an experimental treatment that costs 360 000 rubles (9251 euro).

Luckily they called their daughter, she went to the health center, found out that the test is ok and the doctor and her husband is ok, and the whole thing was a scam, etc.

Just imagine those assholes. Sort of makes me wish that leukemia on the scammers, along with the gangrene of all protruding appendages, castration with a rusty chainsaw and porcupine in the anus.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Racists prefer Ethiopians?

YLE has published an article about different unemployment levels among different immigrant groups. The fact itself is well-known, of course, but they have interviewed Annika Forsander, the Director of Immigration Affairs for the City of Helsinki, who is saying that discrimination is the big reason why Somalis were not able to enter the job market in proper numbers, even the ones who'd lived here for 15-20 years and have degrees. The unemployment rate among the Somali citizens is 55.2%.

I have one question to Forsander: how well can an average racist employer tell a Somali from an Ethiopian? Because I can't. I can for the most part tell people from the Horn of Africa from the people from West Africa, and I figure that an average East African with a Muslim name is more likely to be Somali than Ethiopian, but you can't rely on that, and many of them have weird names anyway.

The racist employers are obviously better anthropologists than yours truly, and consistently discriminate against Somalis more than against the Ethiopians. Somalis' unemployment rate in 55.2%. Ethiopians' is 8.2%. Kenyans' is 4%. People from Ghana and Nigeria have an unemployment rate of 8% and 10%, respectively. Here are the numbers.

Greens 1, trams 0

How come every time there is some Green demonstration in Helsinki the trams stop running properly? I've seen many different kinds of demonstrations in town, and pretty much everyone else, including the bearded supporters of Hezbollah, had the sense to stay off the tram tracks. But I guess protesting the new nuclear power plants is too important to allow one's fellow men and women even a partial use of public transportation.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Russia has no shame

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has presented the certificates of Cities of Military Glory to five Russian cities, including Vyborg. (The short English version says "hero cities", but it's a somewhat different concept.)

Anyway, Medvedev said that during the WWII Vyborg has proved that it was worthy of its military history. The Itar-Tass article said that during WWII it was occupied by Germans and Finns, but was liberated by Russian troops in 1944.

I realize of course that any person with either any sense of shame or a shred of common decency is highly unlikely to work for Itar-Tass and is even more unlikely to become the president of Russia, but for fuck's sake! (For those who don't know: Vyborg was a Finnish city, occupied and annexed by Russians in 1940, retaken by Finland in 1941, and reoccupied by Russia in 1944.)

Yeah, I know that many national borders have changed in 1940s, and that nobody really expects to change them back now (except for the kind of folks who keep suggesting that Israel should disband and go Somewhere Else, usually without specifying where that Somewhere Else should be), and that during that time many countries have done things that they are not particularly proud of, but that is obviously not a good reason to be proud of those things.

I also checked out the local Russian forum, and what they had to say on the subject. My reaction to that is unprintable, and shall therefore remain unprinted.

Listen to your heart, or maybe don't

I am rather curious about the contrast of a very strong "listen to your heart"-message in popular culture, and "emotion" being essentially a dirty word in any social or political discourse. Even more interesting is the fact that while calling the other party emotional and oneself logical is very widely practiced, purposeful public displays of emotion also have their place in such discourse.

The proponents of measures that are considered somewhat less humanitarian usually directly accuse their more-humanitarian opponents of a) basing their views on emotion, and not on reason and logic (like us) and b) being women, regardless of whether or not they actually are. The proponents of more humanitarian measures tend to avoid using the very words "emotion" and "feelings" as a swear word, resorting instead to listing the emotions that in their opinion drive the adversary: fear, hatred, etc. (they themselves are of course perfectly logical and reasonable), and also often accuse the opponents of being male and sexually deprived, regardless of their actual gender and sex life.

What do people actually mean when they call somebody else emotional? An intricate emotional life and wide range of emotion? Strong emotion? Tendency to express emotion in public? Tendency to act on emotion without running every new idea through the reasoning facilities? Do they even know themselves?

The funniest moments come when people discuss emotions as a natural and irresistible force: if it's the other people who can't control their emotions to our satisfaction, this means that they are not fit to make decisions, vote, etc. If it's ourselves - why, then we'll call those emotions "human nature" and declare that you can't really go against the human nature, now can you?