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Finland for Thought » 2009 » February | Politics, current events, culture - In Finland & the United States | Blog of an American living in Finland

Finland for Thought
             Politics, current events, culture - In Finland & United States

Moi! Thanks for visiting!
I have a new blog: BETTER! FUNNER! - come say hi!
Be sure to check out my new book: "How to Marry a Finnish Girl"
And find out more about me: www.philschwarzmann.com

...Enjoy!


26.2.2009

Shitty Deal Puppet Theatre Company comes to Finland

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 11:13 am

The crew that brings you the monthly English Comedy Club at Manala is bringing you some acclaimed puppet theatre from the UK

Award winning comedy group on tour in Finland! Shitty deal- puppet theatre company is here with rude and hilariously funny must see performance! Host of the show finish stand up comic Ismo Leikola (show is in English)

On Friday 6.3.2009, two different shows at Manala…

7pm “A complete guide to the arts”
9.30pm “ The complete history oppressed people everywhere”

Tickets 12e – In advance only from Manala bar – NO reservations!

More info: englishclub@botta.fi and www.botta.fi

They’re also coming to Hämeenlinna on Saturday the 7th and to Tampere on Sunday the 8th, here’s a promo…

24.2.2009

I’m doing more stand-up Wednesday night at On The Rocks

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 12:31 pm

top_21_films_2008On The Rocks in downtown Helsinki hosts “Finland’s Stand Up Club” every Wednesday at 21.00. It’s a night for mostly amateur comics whom each get just a few minutes each (= great format so if you don’t enjoy a particular comic, they’ll be gone in a few moments).

I’ll be performing seven minutes of material, about half will be new stuff. Unfortunately I think I’m the only non-Finnish act, so my fellow foreigners may be kinda bored for 95% of the show. More info can be found on my Facebook page. Hope to see you there!

Finnish food prices increasing fastest in EU

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 12:22 pm

Thanks to the long running Finnish grocery store racket, Finland’s already insanely high grocery store prices are increasing faster than any other EU state – and 2nd to only Iceland throughout Europe…

Food prices have risen faster in Finland than in any other EU state, finds Eurostat, the statistics centre of the European Union. The agency reports that the price of food in Finland is rising at a record speed of over 10 percent a year. Experts say there may be a lack of competition on the food market.

[...]“In Europe, only Iceland has outpaced Finland when it comes to rising food prices,” says Martti Luukko of the Finnish Consumers’ Association.

Luukko says that primary production composes a minor share of food prices. However the secondary production phase and grocery stores take the lion’s share of the price sticker. Experts say there may be something wrong with competition on the food market.

”Is it perhaps an issue of competition not being entirely effective?” asks Luukko.

Finland’s supermarket duopoly coupled with the people’s/state’s resistance to any new business (remember how hard everyone fought when Lidl arrived?) means that we get raped each week at the registers for the most basic of necessities.

Visit the foreign food stores in Hakaniemi for an eyeopening experience – everything is a fraction of the price you’re accustomed to, and these stores are essential boutiques who import everything from Asia (so BULLSHIT to anyone who says shipping to Finland is expensive).

“But Phil, you can’t trust those Asian fucks with our food!” …get your head out of your racist, ignorant ass.

22.2.2009

Phil’s Top 21 Films of 2008

Tags: Everything — Author: @ 2:35 pm

top_21_films_2008It’s Oscar night, so here’s my annual top films of the past year… – Would love to hear about your favorite movies in the comments below!

1. Slumdog Millionaire – Kind of a cliche from any movie buff, but it was my favorite film from 2008 (but wasn’t significantly better than anything else in my Top 10). Fresh and exciting, it will no doubt bring home the Oscar for Best Picture tonight.

2. Blindness – A thrilling sci-fi flick (which I’m a sucker for) about a world where everyone goes blind, that didn’t get the attention it deserved.

3. The Foot Fist Way – Hands down my favorite comedy of the year, fans of quirky indie comedies should hunt this down immediately. Lead actor Danny McBride should have taken home the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy/Musical.

4. City of Ember – Think “The Goonies” meets “Brazil”, if comparison gets you excited you must watch this film immediately (and bring the kids along). If that comparison doesn’t get you excited, you have no taste in movies. :-)

5. Burn After Reading – Another fantastic film from the Coen Brothers that combines great drama, comedy, and Coen-style quirkiness. Not exactly sure why it didn’t get the respect it deserved (too close to last year’s No Country for Old Men?)

6. Changeling – Thrilling, true-story drama about a woman’s quest to find her lost son. Angeline Jolie deserves the Oscar for Best Actress tonight.

6b. Synecdoche, New York – If you like strange, mind-bending films…you will love this. If you don’t, you’ll hate it. This film is still running around in my head weeks later.

7. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – Think “Forrest Gump” but not as exciting, yet still an epic story with a sci-fi twist.

8. The Wrestler – Mickey Rourke will take home the Oscar tonight.

9. Revolutionary Road – A powerful yet difficult drama that everyone who lives or had lived outside their homeland should see.

10. Gran Torino – Clint Eastwood, please live forever and don’t ever stop making movies.

11. The Fall – A bizarre fantasy with some of the coolest visuals I’ve ever seen. Must be seen on Blu-ray with a big screen, feel free to use other visual enhancements.

12. Taken – Hands down the best action film of the year, and I don’t usually like action flicks. Liam Neeson kicks ass.

13. Milk – Sean Penn is a genius and deserves the Best Actor award tonight.

14. Hamlet 2 – A hidden indie comedy gem.

15. The Dark Knight – Does anyone think Heath Ledger WON’T win Best Supporting Actor tonight?

15b. The Promotion – Totally forgot about this indie comedy gem starring Sean William Scott and John C. Reilly.

15c. The Reader – Just saw it, loved it, powerful film, Kate Winslett was fantastic.

15d. The Escapist – Escaping from prison? Awesome.

16. Frost/Nixon – An exciting recreation of an important moment in American history.

17. Wall-E – So cute…

18. Pineapple Express – Comedy meets action.

19. Young People Fucking – Another hidden gem from 2008 about five couples in various parts of their relationships during a night of sex. Watch this with your partner.

20. Religulous – Documentary of the Year.

21. Step Brothers – I am a sucker for anything Will Farrell.

Other favorite films that didn’t quite make the list: The Visitor, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Tropic Thunder, Role Models, Gomorra, Frozen River, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, Appaloossa

Other good films from 2008: Zach and Miri Make a Porno, Yes Man, W., Semi-Pro, Rambo, The Onion Movie, Mama Mia!, In Bruges, Felon, Cloverfield, The Bank Job, Baby Mama, American Teen

Popular Films from 2008 that mostly sucked: Rachel Getting Married, Doubt, Happy-Go-Lucky, Iron Man, Seven Pounds

2008 Barley a Thumbs Up not mentioned above: Strange Wilderness, Man On Wire, Made of Honor, Henry Poole is Here, The Happening, Hancock, Forgetting Sarah Marshal, 21

2008 Thumbs Down to: What happens in Vegas, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, Fool’s Gold, Flash of Genius, Be Kind Rewind, Righteous Kill, Quantum of Solstice, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, Ghost Town, Drillbit Taylor, Baghead

Acclaimed Films from 2008 I’ve yet to see: The Reader, Australia, Che, I’ve Loved You So Long, Snow Angels (and sadly I’ve yet to see any Finnish films from 2008)

21.2.2009

“Because of the guys like you I left Finland”

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 2:07 am

New Hollywood movie, Confessions of a Shopoholic, with some Finnish it – fortunately it’s REAL Finnish, skip to the end for the good part…

20.2.2009

The high car tax will cause problems, especially in an economic downturn

Tags: Everything — Author:   @ 9:30 pm

In Iceland, there is also a high car tax. Right now a lot of people are trying to sell their cars. The government has been debating on how to refund the taxes and import customs on the cars that people are now trying to sell overseas.  With all the other things the Icelandic government has on its table, now it needs to concern itself with refunding people their taxes on their cars because they couldn’t sell them otherwise. You can’t sell a car with a fake overtaxed value and expect to get a “fair” used price from it in most of the EU where cars are not overtaxed.

We may all be thinking that this kind of thing could never happen in Finland. Well, it can and may. Finland now has legislation for refunding the registration fees on cars that are taken out of the country. If the economy gets stuck here, and people can’t sell their cars, they will start selling them in other parts of the EU, Russia or elsewhere. Already you should be able to sell your car in another EU country and get a tax refund. Already cars sales are at an extreme low all over the EU. Saab is looking at possible bankruptcy after General Motors dumped it back in Sweden’s lap to take care of. (Doesn’t Saab stand for Svensk Automobil AB?)

The high taxation in Finland and Denmark causes people even more than normal to buy their cars on loan. The economy would be more solid and stable if more people owned their cars outright. The government is essentially collecting a lot of taxes on borrowed money. This is another example of monkey-see-monkey-do legislation, where Finland automatically copied Sweden’s way of doing things without considering whether or not it was smart. Is copying someone else’s way of doing things democratic?

The high tax also challenges those who are selling cars, especially in a time like this, when people are watching their money. And where are unemployed car salespeople going to work when they lose their jobs?

Personally, I think cars should have the same VAT as any other product. They should not be taxed differently on size, capacity, thickness of cushioning, engine type, etc. This stuff requires all kinds of protectionism and relegates the function of customs to being a sort of mafia: Pay or else. It also restricts the flow of goods and people around the EU, which is against the principles of the EU.

You don’t believe me? You think I am just ranting. Have a look at these articles.

Iceland debates refunding tax on used cars sold overseas

Another article about cars in Iceland

Car sales in the EU plummet to a 20 year low

19.2.2009

Finland’s hypocritcal Prime Minster

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 1:39 pm

Interesting commentary from Helsingin Sanomat

Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre Party) has waged a legal battle against his former girlfriend Susan Ruusunen in order to defend his privacy – for example the privacy of his SMS text messages.

At the same time, Vanhanen’s government would like – through the means of the so-called Lex Nokia legislation – the rights of employees to the privacy of their e-mail correspondence.

According to Vanhanen, the details divulged about him by Ruusunen [in her book] are harmless enough, but it is a question of principle.

If on the other hand Lex Nokia goes through in Parliament, an employer will be entitled routinely to monitor the identification data of e-mails sent by employees, for example who is the recipient of the messages.

And who is Vanhanen’s employer, then?

Do we not, the voters, thus have the right to monitor the identification data of Vanhanen’s communication tools?

The messages may indeed be harmless, but it is a matter of principle.

16.2.2009

Office Fight

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 5:52 pm

Viral marketing goodness…

12.2.2009

My first time doing stand-up comedy

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 9:34 pm

What an awesome experience – I was about to have a heart attack due to my nervousness, but once I got my first laughs, I felt like I was floating. It awesome meeting so many of my readers, thank you soooo much for coming out to support me!!

I’ll definitely be doing stand-up in the future, so if you’re interested in when and where I’ll be performing, be sure to join my Facebook fan page! :-)

11.2.2009

See how badly the US economy is doing

Tags: Everything — Author:   @ 5:36 pm

lfb76ee41-m0m1

This house in Detroit lists for 10,000 dollars in realtor.com

Link to Realtor.com’s listings for Detroit, Michigan with a price cap of 10,000 dollars.

(I got this tip from one workmate. You know who you are if you read this. Thanks.)

If you clicked the link, you see some pretty nice looking houses there. I can only speculate on why this is. First of all, I know the US automobile industry is probably not doing so well right now, when people don’t want to spend money. The “rust belt” companies are laying off workers in the droves. The “rust belt” refers to the old automobile industry area. I checked some other areas of the US, and I did not see this phenomenon.

Detroit also gets some nasty winters. It is colder than Southern Finland, and gets violent snow storms. If one has no income there and wants to leave, there is still the house which needs heating, and needs the snow removed. That all costs money. I have seen Americans charging each other 60 dollars a pop to plow 20-30m of driveway, so it can be expensive.

There would also be the property taxes. Without income, one doesn’t want to pay property taxes either, especially if they have moved away. A typical US city’s property taxes are no joke. They use those to pay for schools and municipal services.

I also don’t think they have a very easy time finding renters to rent those places, if thousands of people have already left that area.

It also could be banks selling them for the amount that the person had defaulted on a loan, or the city/state selling them for the amount owed in back taxes. Who knows. “Motivated seller” would indicate someone who earnestly wants to get rid of the house.

If there are any Finnish companies who have been wanting to set up in America, this might be your opportunity. You can get cheap buildings, and your employees can get good houses to live in. And your Finnish workers might get to see some “real snow” for the first time.

Stand-up comedy tonight…

Tags: Everything — Author: @ 10:07 am

Don’t forget! English stand-up comedy tonight at Manala!

stand_up_phil_schwarzmann

10.2.2009

Finnish court fines PM’s ex-girlfriend for autobiography

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 9:55 pm

This country has serious, serious freedom-of-speech issues, that stem back to it’s long cooperation with the Soviet Union: A woman writes an autobiography about her life which happens to include dating our Prime Minister. Finland’s PM makes an ass out of himself after their breakup and decides to get his revenge by taking her to court. The lower courts rule in her favor, but he’s wealthy and powerful so he decides to appeal to the upper courts, and wins

Helsinki’s Court of Appeals has ruled that Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen’s ex-girlfriend did violate his right to privacy by publishing an exposé of their relationship. This overturns a lower court’s ruling in favour of his former girlfriend, Susan Ruusunen. The court issued fines for both Ruusunen and her publisher, Kari Ojala.

Wow, not only can you write truthfully about our highest ranking politician (imagine if Bush sued everyone who wrote about him! LOL!), you can’t even write truthfully about your own fucking life! But I have no sympathy towards Susan either, after she decided to sue visitors of her website who left nasty messages.

susan_koronen_1.jpg

9.2.2009

One in four marriages in Helsinki involve at least one foreigner

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 10:59 pm

Today’s Helsingin Sanomat features one of Finland for Thought’s long time readers, and friend of mine…

Wedding bells are increasingly ringing in Helsinki for foreign citizens. In 2007, at least one of the partners was the citizen of a foreign country in 26 per cent of marriages that were sealed in that year, and both were foreigners in 12 per cent of cases.
“It is a surprisingly large number”, says Tanja Leikas-Bottà.
Leikas-Bottà herself is one of the 457 Finnish women who said “I do” to a foreign spouse in Helsinki in 2007. At the same time 384 Finnish men married foreign women.

[...]According to statistics, when Finnish women marry outside of their own nationality, the spouse is usually from Western Europe, while Finnish men who marry foreigners often find wives in Southeast or East Asia, or in Russia.

[...]In 2007, 6.5 per cent of Helsinki’s population was foreign. The proportion is much higher for those of marrying age – that is, young adults.
In other cultures the pressure to marry can be greater than in Finland, where lengthy cohabitation without marriage is the norm. This can partly explain the large proportion of foreigners in the marriage statistics.

8.2.2009

Bjork discusses Iceland’s trouble economy

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 11:50 pm

Too funny…

7.2.2009

Lex Nokia

Tags: Everything — Author:   @ 6:26 pm

Lex Nokia, also known as the Snooping Law, is the answer to all the world’s information leak problems! Or is it? It gives anyone who provides an internet connection or internet routing in Finland the right to snoop through the headers of e-mails, if they suspect there is something fishy going on. There they can find out who is sending the e-mail, to whom, and how much information it contains. Hmm. But I don’t really know of any program that can be used to look at just the header of an e-mail. A building custodian who would be given this right probably won’t know that either. That means the whole e-mail will be read. That’s a pretty big dive from the rights the Finnish constitution now gives. Will the building custodian also know about the Personal Data directive, and the rights it gives to everyone about whom personal data is being collected? He probably won’t know much about that either.

Well, I suppose the wise parliamentarians will figure it out. They must also know about the mobile phone memory cards, USB memory sticks, chat programs, fax machines, paper copies, diskettes, optical disks, USB hard disks, laptops taken home, talk, telephones, and other ways that information can also leak. They must also know of all the ways to circumvent Lex Nokia, like by simply using a web-based e-mail program which uses SSL encryption. Or is it a lot of 50 something or older politicians dealing with something that they don’t really understand? The internet started being popular in the 1990′s. I have seen first hand how little the older generation understands about how the internet works with one guy I know, who is even an engineer, who is about 55. I go an occasionally disinfect his computer of all the pornography autodiallers, “time managers”, and other stuff that he has installed when answering “yes” to anything that pops up.  He would probably inadvertently be the kind of person who would get burnt by Lex Nokia after all.

Another article in English.

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