Monday, July 16, 2012

A look at the weekend's papers

We are spending our holiday at our summer cottage, but once a week we visit civilization, the city of Savonlinna, with its excellent bookstores, including four well-stocked second hand bookstores. This time I select a rare volume of one of my favourite writers in any language, Samuli Paulaharju, Kuva sieltä, toinen täältä (kautta Suur-Suomen) [An Image from There, Another from Here (from the Greater Finland)], originally published in 1919, re-edited and published posthumously in 1944 with a foreword by another great writer and scholar, Martti Haavio. This book is never mentioned among the central works of Paulaharju, but he never published anything of secondary value, and this collection could even be a good place to start reading Paulaharju. The book starts with a short story called "On the Forest Path" which ends with a night spent at a hunters' smoke sauna, continues with an account of the ancient smoke houses of Karelia and proceeds through all Finland until the far north, the even more ancient (pre-Ice Age) Skolt Sami at Lake Nuorttijärvi in the Kola Peninsula by the Arctic Ocean; the lake, now in Russia, is now known as Lake Kotozero.

A nice bonus at Savonlinnan Antikvariaatti: from Jorma Mutikainen I receive a can of unidentified old film to be deposited with the KAVA; the subject is reportedly "A Karelian Village Ball". The edge marking informs it's nitrate. It's in good condition, no smell, no decomposition, and deciphering the Kodak edge code back at our cottage the stock turns out to be from the year 1934 from Rochester.

4 March 2013: The nitrate footage has been identified. It is a unique and highly valuable fragment of a lost Finnish feature film called Kalevalan mailta [From the Land of Kalevala] (FI 1935, P: Kurt Jäger, D: Kalle Kaarna).

The R-kioski newspaper stand of Savonlinna is well-stocked, too; not bad for the international audience of the Savonlinna Opera Festival. This is an age of financial turbulence which we have been following via the radio, the internet, and the daily Helsingin Sanomat. Today's Kauppalehti [Daily Commerce] reports on the alarming global wheat crop prognoses. Finland belongs to the countries suffering from too much rain; the U.S. and Russia are suffering from record drought. Päivi Isotalus interviews Anu Nissinen from Sanoma media group about the problematic issue of publicly financed media reaching into the territory of the commercial media in Europe. Auli Valpola comments on the recent conduct of British banks regarding forged LIBOR (London interbank offered rate) estimates. The Suomen Kuvalehti weekly, our counterpart to Time and Newsweek, celebrates the centenary of the Savonlinna Opera Festival in an article by Pentti Savolainen. Heikki Saari has edited an extensive dossier on the splitting of the Rupert Murdoch media empire. The details are well-known, but it is amazing to review them in a larger context. If Citizen Kane is again voted as the best film in the Sight & Sound poll this year, it might by partly also because the story is still so topical and relevant. Juho Salminen has written an interesting study about opening up government records to the public, topical because the National Land Survey of Finland has given this year free online access to its high quality maps. The office will lose 1,5 million Euro every year, but the economic gain to the country might be hundredfold. In the weekend edition of International Herald Tribune Paul Krugman's column is always worth reading, and today he shares sarcastic observations on the V.I.P. syndrome. The theme of David Brooks is "Why our elites stink". Main news subjects include rogue traders at Barclay's in London, indications of cover-up in huge loss at JPMorgan, and fraud charges at Peregrine Financial Group, its founder Russell Wasendorf recovering from his suicide attempt. Financial Times Weekend's headlines include JPMorgan's trading losses, the bribe charges on the Kwok brothers in Hong Kong, and the ousting of the CEO of Barclay's. Extreme weather phenomena may be linked with the global weather change. There are food crisis fears because of the US drought. Die Zeit focuses on the problem of democracy in the turbulence of saving the Euro and the moral bankruptcy evident in the current cycle of bank fraud scandals. There is an article about how rich people are leaving the troubled economies of Southern Europe, and how house prices are soaring in London and Berlin because of the rich Greeks moving in.

Most of the papers also comment on the Higgs boson and the secret of the universe. And the 50th anniversary of The Rolling Stones. The Rolling Stones has been a part of my life since February 1966 when I first heard "19th Nervous Breakdown". Contemporary pop music during those months entered my teenage life and made sense (or nonsense) of the world most crucially from early 1966 until 1969. The last Rolling Stones title that immediately struck me was "Honky Tonk Women" in July 1969, but I kept listening to their albums until Exile on Main Street (1972) and also discovered their first albums and made further discoveries into their exciting rhythm & blues sources. The papers observe that The Rolling Stones rose to their greatest stage of success in the early 1970s, about the time when their greatest period of creativity ended.

The cultural sections are great. In International Herald Tribune there is an interview with the cinematographer Darius Khondji and another interview with Christopher Nolan, who has shot a large part (72 minutes) of Dark Knight Rises in the photochemical super format IMAX (horizontal 70 mm ESTAR film with 15-perforation). Die Zeit lauches a seven-part series of dossiers revisiting the European canon of literature, starting with 1945-1950, with Thomas Mann, Primo Levi, Ivo Andrić, Albert Camus, Curzio Malaparte, Malcolm Lowry, Knut Hamsun, George Orwell, Ernst Jünger, and Cesare Pavese. Financial Times invites Nicholas Serota, director of Tate, to lunch. Frank Gehry discusses the contribution of 3D design technology in Opus Hong Kong and Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas.

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