28 February 2006

Field day taking fotos in Birmingham

Yesterday I went out, just around where I live, and took pictures until my fingers went quite literally numb. These fotos are not how the whole city is, although I must admit that Birmingham is not a pretty place. Grim would be a better the word to use.

But here it is - the city that gave you Duran Duran, UB40, Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath, Mike and Frank Skinner, Lord of The Rings and the largest shopping center in Europe.

Wiew them here.

As you might know I am rather lazy person so none of the places are further than 500 metres of where I live. The graffitis and day time pictures are from Digbeth area and Custard Factory's Urban Village and the night time fotos are from around Bullring shoppping centre.

24 February 2006

Friday morning thoughts

Friday morning and a caffeine overdose. I must let some steam out. First thing I hear while waiting for the bus is the band that upsets me on so many levels. Pussycat Dolls. First they sang Don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me? Depends on how you define hot – I am gathering, your opinion of it, is to dress like a prostitute and use too much make-up, so the answer is no, I am afraid. Music is always a value judgement so there is not a wrong answer to a question what’s good. Not universally at least, but I must say that for once I cannot see how could anyone over eighteen years of age in their right mind to like this. I mean their music, not the appearance. Now if the target audience is teenagers, then I am asking myself that in this over-sexed post-Baywatch time of teenage pregnancies, STD’s and rap video girls isn't this the last possible thing that we need?

Their new song Beeb is the best example. The song insinuates all kind of adult rated things but the key words are conveniently changed into a beeb, so arguably it is only my dirty mind that makes me think of these things. In a way I do not have anything against this kind of gimmicky music but I cannot see any other motivation for it but making money. Considering that it is the motivation behind everything we have in this free market Babylon, my argument is like urinating in the wind - nothing constructive is coming out of it. It still upsets me as an individual. I suppose there is a time and place for everything but I cannot think of the time and place for this one.

In the bus I read the free newspaper Metro, which they offer me. I really like the fact that I can quickly have a look at some news before going into the lecture. Just to keep myself updated as I am such a bad morning person that I have no time for it before I leave the house.

I am surprised to find a very small article in the side of some page in the middle. It looks very insignificant and has less than ten rows. It says “Anti-Muslim riots kill 80 in Nigeria”. Wow.. Not only to be an African but to be a Muslim as well. How unfortunate. It takes at least 100 of them to be interesting to people. Our western society has a problem. A big big problem because as far as I am concerned this is much more important than what Associated Newspapers Ltd and Metro editors let us to believe. In the Anti-Western “demonstration” in the London tube last summer far less people lost their life. I am obviously not justifying it I am just pointing out the other side of the coin. We always get stuck with the feeling that we are really far more important than .. well the ones who are not like us. I don’t want to be part of us anymore. I resign.

On the lighter note, on last nights NME Awards the best website was NME website. I know it was voted by the fans – I wonder if the voting was online. At the NME site maybe. Don’t know. Well done for the web designer anyway.

And finally, and this might sort this whole thing out, I read my star sign. I usually don’t do that but when you are all hyped up with caffeine you do strange things. Usually my answer to the “What’s your sign”-question has been “the international finger one”, but I try to stay open and not cynical. For a Virgo it says that today I am going to be told what my problem is. I am waiting for that one with great exitement.

20 February 2006

Selling War

Few years ago I was talking with an ex-soldier from United States. He had been fighting during the early nineties in the first Gulf War in Iraq and after that in Somalia. Regardless of anybody’s opinion of these operations, he was convinced that he and his troops were godsend help to the poor people of whichever country they were in at the time. I, being the anti-war person that I am, could not resist confronting him with one very basic question, “Have you ever killed anybody?”. I thought that the response could have been awkward but he had no problem with it. He just replied “I have never taken a soul”.

Immediately I felt that I am better off trying to convince a Jehovah’s Witness on my door to become an atheist than communicate with this person who is giving me some strange army rhetoric of not taking a soul of a man. What does that actually mean, I do not know and I was not too keen to find out. Maybe he had launched a missile that blew up a half of a village, caused the death of many and helped the recruiting of the resistance movement, which in this same discourse would obviously be called terrorist movement that hates “our values and way of life.. our freedom if you wish”. I am relatively sure that it did not mean that he has not actually killed a man. It would have been far too easy to just say no.

I have gone through a military training in a country whose forces are irrelevant in the global picture and which is not very likely to go to war at least in my lifetime. So I could not really say much about the actual training for men and women who end up on the frontlines. I hear its basic essence is to break down and then to build up. Take your identity and then give you a new one and I am not referring to a new name but a knowledge of self and authority. That does not sound very appealing to me.

Why does a young man or a woman join an army that will very likely take them into a battle? In UK military forces are in the middle of a furious advertising campaign that challenges young people to find their limits. Just like they challenge us to eat healthier, which means only to eat some certain morning cereal for two weeks. Just like that. Where is your limit they ask and I cannot help but feel many young people, frustrated with studying or meaningless life, thinking, that this could give my life some structure and purpose. Sure, at least it looks great, almost like an overland tour to Australia. What they forget to say is that it might also kill you and your friends, it does not mention that besides the fantastic camping-type of activities you also have to kill people. They might be called evil and terrorist and one may or may not question that, but all the same they are human beings, some innocent, some not but equally just like us, they are human beings. War in these adverts looks like that weekend I had once with a radio station I worked for, when we were trying to build a team spirit and ended up just getting really drunk in a forest. It does not look very serious, quite fun actually, you know get in shape, meet new friends and have fun in the nature. It is a good job that I am not a citizen here so I cannot join on my weak moment.

Besides not featuring any enemies or death these adverts are generally dubbed in some regional and rather working class accent. Somehow that does not surprise me. Did you really think they are targeting upper classes and posh people? Do you think they need this? Do they want to risk their lives? I doubt it. So in its overflowing generosity the British government sells death as an after school programme for the ones who cannot pay the increasing tuition fees or who need to find a new way to their lives. Great, I am not very fond our “freedom” either. War is not a game of football.

15 February 2006

Welfare State of Mind Radio Show blog

The new blog for my radio show on Bush is up! Playlists, info and links.


Remember to listen to the show every Saturday 14.00 (GMT+2) on Bush Radio - the mother of the community radio in Africa - 89.5 and
online all across the world!

14 February 2006

Birmingham State of Mind

For the past two weeks I have been trying to get back into the Birmingham state of mind as much as it is humanly possible. To start off, I decided to put myself a carrot and after the first week of survival go to London. That I did and had a wonderful trip seeing my dear friends Donna, Markus, Andrea and Gillian. I have not seen them in a year, well except Markus who came to Finland, and it was a nice re-union. Markus had returned his PhD which to me is quite unbelievable. Not the fact that he did it but just in general that it can be done. I myself, at the tender age of 26, still have one and half years to finish my BA, which I find quite troubling if I am being honest here. But fantastic news for him. I am really happy and very proud.

Birmingham has been grey as ever and although I got accommodation and things like that sorted without any trouble, I have felt more or less like being here always ended up being about the destination rather than the journey.

I am still trying to learn how to use my new fancy camera, still trying to learn some HTML skills to add stuff up here at my blog, still trying to create new stuff for my radio show and still trying to understand why I ever chose to commit myself for three years in such rainy and grey place.

I do not want to be negative about it though. I am soon launching the Welfare State of Mind radio show web blog. That will serve the show by having the playlists and some other information about the artist. That will also be an ongoing project so the content will then increase weekly. I am actually quite intrigued by this opportunity and this space will be the first to have the information when the page is up.

So many treats in the horizon, not too many on the plate right now. I must be patient. That is what my Birmingham state of mind is all about.

1 February 2006

Few steps towards the better world.

Finland re-elected its President Tarja Halonen last Sunday. For those of you who do not know anything about the matter or about the Finnish names, she is a Mrs President. I must say that there seems to be a momentum globally of women in power as few weeks back Liberia elected Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Chile Michelle Bachelet Jeria. Also Ireland, Latvia and the Philippines have elected female presidents and many other countries have had woman leading in the past or have woman in charge with some other title such as Prime Minister or Chancellor.

Regardless of how much actual power do the President have, for instance in Finland or in Ireland, it is a great step towards the right direction and at least I am very happy about it. Us men too often come up with excuses and lame jokes about why having a woman in charge is a bad thing but that tells more about men than women.

I happened to be in Finland for the second round voting and heard many debates and read many opinions where even some of the other leading female politicians tried to convince that we do not need to have President Halonen for another six year term as we have already had female President and now even women can vote for a man freely. I find it strange. I would understand if they said that “I disagree with her views so I will vote for her opponent, who happens to be a man”. The way the statement is made, in my opinion, indicates few things. Firstly, that women had to vote for any woman before, just because she was she and not he, secondly that women cannot make up their own political mind by themselves and thirdly, that the things regarding the gender equality are so well, that we do not need to think about them anymore.

Maybe I am over-reacting but that is what I hear. I must admit that in Finland, we have things better than most, but being the least bad at something should not satisfy anyone. Women still get paid much less from the same jobs as men and it is much harder for them to get the jobs at the first place. I know this particularly well as my sister had great difficulties getting a proper job after she did her MA in the School of Economics. For some reason to be a female economic at the age of twenty-something is much harder than being a male one. It just is so. Young women are not seen to be able to deal with money, where as young men somehow can pull it off. If you are asking why, I must say that probably because the people who are giving the jobs once were young male economics themselves.

I have no doubts that this is the story in many other professions as well, with the exceptions of becoming a nurse or possibly a school teacher. My point is that we cannot even dream about the gender equality yet.

I want to give few solutions that everyone can use freely and my name need not to be mentioned when they are used. They are not complicated things although the implementation of most of them can be much trickier than one would expect.

1. Media needs to pull their socks up and stop showing women as objects. One Alicia Keys to a thousand rap video girls is not enough. And I do not care what sells but media ethics should not be the oxymoron that it is now. How can we expect young girls to respect themselves with their clothes on when everything around them says they are best when they are next to naked.. or naked. And when I say media, it also covers drama, current affairs and everything else. Commercial radio also needs to kick out all the sexist male presenters who presently fill the airwaves. We need more intelligent and strong women in radio and if we cannot have them, can we at least have intelligent men who respect women. The most read “newspaper” in United Kingdom, Sun, still have a page three girl right next to the main news, smiling in her bikinis. What are we supposed to get out from that?

2. When the media has stepped their game up we need to unlearn most, if not everything that we are used to. By this I mean more or less the same what Steve Biko meant when he called for “decolonising the African minds”, in a different context. Women need to understand that just because media has said that they are less than men, they are not. Their value as a human being is not defined by their appearance. It is as important for the men to understand this.

3. We need to stop mentioning the rights that women already have as an excuse for the lack of equality. I notice that these points are valid, in my view, to all the aspects of equality so I take again a South African example with racism. In South Africa many white people liked, and still do, to talk about what black and “coloured” people have and wondered why are they not happy with it. How hard it is to understand that when it comes to rights and equal treatment, nothing but the equality is enough.

4. Men need to stop fearing about losing the power. Lets face it, it is not very likely anytime soon, is it. If five, soon six, countries in the world have elected female leaders it still leaves almost 200 for us men. Not even to talk about the ownership of business or other high political or economic positions.

I reckon after we have filled these points we can re-evaluate the situation. Even if it was a huge task and relatively impossible for now due to the long times that the behavioural change takes, these points are not rocket science. I try to do my best at least because they say that change starts from an individual.