"Bohemian Rhapsody" sung by the Porkka Playboys (Or "What would happen if the Musicians should be more?")

Since I've already posted the Muppet and Celtic versions of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, I was pleased to find this video of a Finnish group, the Porkka Playboys, singing the song (in English) in a VW Polo (circa 1980)(the VW, not the video):

I used Google Translate to try to read their website in English, but it was only of limited use.  It couldn't translate many of the words, and what did get translated doesn't always sound normal.  On the other hand, it might not just be fault of the translation!  Here's a taste from the translation of the Musicians page:

Grace in 2008, proper young gentleman and a musician first Kukkola Jonah went to the flea market driven by a higher power round. Kotvan pytinki touring and scrap boxes pengottuaan his eyes finally osuikin one of the most remote on the shelf nököttävä, poison green, musical little devils that contains an accordion, with whom she wobble like a trance.  Jonah, was completely impossible to resist these little creatures call viekkaiden screams, so immediately accordion oravannahkoihin exchanged Jonah astelikin the street and rang the hypnotized enchanted accordion solo, taking alms from the thrilled audience.  Tästäpä four FIM richer Jonah got a thought: "Hmm ... If you already have one accordion and one caller to the public so hullaantumaan what would happen if the Musicians should be more?" It took Jonah and wondering earned money wisely invested in soft drinks...*

It starts to seem rather existential... or maybe transcendental... after you read it for a while.  Here's the end of that page:

...Well, nothing! When all the four people still sing and the angels' languages, the band was noted to be finished.

Already the first session it was clear that such a common sound is heard in the streets kuunaan Finland - So olkaatten careful: if the ringer when ostosreissullanne Or, you can hear a beautiful song, close your ears, because if you do not do so, Porkka Playboys steal your heart.


 *  I had to take a break and read other blogs before finishing this post because I was starting to write in the style of the translation!

 [Hat tip to Geekosystem]

Here's a link to a Moomin House

Moomins My blog is named after Moomins (right), but I've written so few posts about them.  Here's a link to a photo, Hibernating Place of the Moomins (or, in Finnish, Moominsmumentrollmuumipeikot) - a Moomin House in a theme park in Finland. 

[Daughter had her last high school dance recital today, our choir concert is tomorrow, and I've reached the frantic stage of vacation preparation.  Posting will be spotty for a while.]

Is it twenty years already?

StOlafTallinn When I was little, back in the 60's, we would have an International Day at our school.  We would each bring in something from our background - food, clothing, a knick knack - and we'd tell the class where our ancestors came from.   Since I'm half Estonian and half Finnish, inevitably, the teacher would ask me where Estonia is.  "It's a small country, south of Finland, which gained its independence from Russia during World War I, and lost it to the Soviet Union in World War II."  I got used to explaining.  Actually, I was lucky if the teacher knew where Finland was.  We never went too far past that since most people have some idea about Sweden.

[The photo is of St. Olaf's church in Talinn, Estonia.  It's from Claudio Ar's Flickr Photostream: http://www.flickr.com/photos/claudio_ar/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]

The other kids had easier backgrounds:  Italian, German, even Swedish went over better.  I've always loved stories about immigration: why people decided to come, where they went in the U.S. and why, how their families eventually blended in, etc.  How did their families' stories compare to mine? 

I'm not going to tell you my family's stories because they're not mine to tell, as fascinating as I've always found them.  However, I'll give you an idea of the circumstances.  As a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, the Soviet Union annexed Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia in 1939.  Up to 60,000 Estonians, including most of the government and the military leadership, were deported to Siberia or Kazakhstan.  You didn't have to be that high up, however.   A college education could condemn you - maybe not at first, but eventually.  There's far less risk of rebellion or resistance when one takes out those trained to be leaders and managers.  If you lasted through the initial conquest, after a few years you got a new set of rulers as Nazi Germany headed through the Baltic countries on its way to Stalingrad.  If you were still around, as Nazi Germany withdrew and the Soviet Union advanced, you knew that your days were numbered. 

If you escaped, then it was on to the questions I mentioned earlier:  where to go and how to become a part of your new society.

The Finnish side of my family was already in the U.S. a few decades before World War II.  However, learning about the Winter War with the Soviet Union, in which Finland had to fight to keep their independence, combined with the Estonian history to give me more of a sense of the Soviet Union's grip on Eastern Europe than most kids my age had.  When I was a teenager, I read more on my own, including most of Solzhenitsyn's work and, one of the most hopeless books I've ever read, Graves without Crosses.  I avidly followed the news about the interactions of the Soviet Union and the West.

Then, 20 years ago, the Berlin Wall fell. Having read so much, and felt so much, about the division of the Iron Curtain, it was amazing and exhilarating to watch.  Estonia won its independence four years later.  A number of Estonian-Americans, including some in their 20s and 30s who had grown up listening to the same sorts of stories, went to Estonia to help build the free country.*  I had two children by then, but I could picture that I would have been tempted to do the same if I had still been single (and if I knew how to speak Estonian).

The stories about Estonia gradually changed.  The small, newly independent (again) country was developing their economy and was becoming more successful.   About half the time, now, people I talk to have actually heard about it (although I had to explain it again last week:  "They lost their independence in WWII and regained it twenty years ago"). 

I've never had a chance to go to Estonia.  We went to Finland when I was in junior high, but the boats to Estonia were full while we were there.  My mother and sister went in the 1990's, but I didn't want to leave my young kids.  It made sense at the time, but I now regret that I didn't. 

* The first commander of the Estonian armed forces, Alexsandr Einseln, was a retired colonel in the U.S. army who had fled Estonia as a child in 1944. 


  • One of the blogs I check daily is Itching for Eestimaa, the thoughts of an American of Italian background, living in Estonia with his Estonian wife and daughter.  I really enjoyed today's post, eestlased, which delves into a Finnish/Estonian tradition which I've tried but never really understood, the sauna:
...And in the gym I found a third remedy for the cold: a sauna.

Saunas are magical places. They can cure any ache or pain. Broken arm? Go sit in the sauna awhile. It'll heal more quickly. I always thought that saunas were just for fun, a sort of outdoor pub for woodsy drunks. I've come to learn that, during the winter at least, a long stew in the sauna is exactly what you need to defrost those frigid digits. You can cancel out the damage done by the northern climate in a sauna. By exposing yourself to extreme cold outside, and extreme heat in the sauna, you may finally arrive at a normal body temperature. Or so the logic goes.

But what of summer saunas? Now that's interesting. If winter saunas are therapeutic, then summer saunas are like Woodstock. There's nothing but nudity, lake swimming, and cool vibes, man. You sit there covered in sweat and silt, and feel as if you are truly one with nature, as if you should have moss for eyebrows and snails hanging from every appendage. In fact, after a co-ed sauna in the summer, it's kind of hard to justify wearing clothes anymore. I mean, if you've already seen everybody in their birthday suit, and it's hot out, then, what exactly is the point of wearing trousers?

One July day, I asked our friend Mart why people sauna in the summer. I told him I understood the rationale behind winter saunas, but wasn't quite sure what purpose summer saunas served. It was hot already. Why get purposefully hotter? Could it be just for fun? No. There had to be some really good Estonian reason like, "It helps us work harder."

Mart's eyes bulged at the question as if to say Does not compute. In reality, he just repeated my words back to me. "Why do people sauna in summer?" I remember the puzzled expression on his face as he said it. He was stunned. I could have asked him why he breathes air or why he sleeps at night. But he might have actually had reasonable explanations for those activities. But why sauna in the summer, when it's hot? What a silly question. Mart shot an odd look at me again, then took another sip of his beer. He never answered...

The whole post is well worth a read.
  • Arts and Letters Daily has links to numerous articles on the fall of the Berlin Wall.  If you look at it in mid-November, you'll be able to see them.  If you're reading this later than that, they will have scrolled off.
It has been 20 years since the Berlin Wall fell. But deep in the forest here, a red deer called Ahornia still refuses to cross the old Iron Curtain.

Ahornia inhabits the thickly wooded mountains along what once was the fortified border between West Germany and Czechoslovakia. At the height of the Cold War, a high electric fence, barbed wire and machine-gun-carrying guards cut off Eastern Europe from the Western world. The barriers severed the herds of deer on the two sides as well.

The fence is long gone, and the no-man's land where it stood now is part of Europe's biggest nature preserve. The once-deadly border area is alive with songbirds nesting in crumbling watchtowers, foxes hiding in weedy fortifications and animals not seen here for years, such as elk and lynx.

But one species is boycotting the reunified animal kingdom: red deer. Herds of them roam both sides of the old NATO-Warsaw Pact border here but mysteriously turn around when they approach it. This although the deer alive today have no memory of the ominous fence... 
[Hat tip to Chris Blattman]

My Non-Lenten Lenten Reading

A long post that I came up with while walking today.  Let's see how much of it I can remember...

Besides remembering, I have a problem with the title.  If I title this "My Lenten Reading," people who want spiritual inspiration are going to be greatly disappointed, and the people who want to read about science fiction, fantasy, Norse Mythology, and reading Heinlein again after many years (and a feminist daughter) might miss a post by thinking this will be spiritually inspirational.  Or spiritually pushy.  Which I don't think I am, and this certainly isn't. 

Hence the title.

Every year, when I'm thinking of what to do, Lenten-wise, I keep thinking of things until I come up with something that "seems" right at the time.  I know, this isn't analytical, but it's the way I go about it. 

Where I did end up, this year, was to cut back on my computer time (that's the "giving up" part) and to read more instead.  I also decided that what I will read in that time will be books that either my kids have enjoyed or ones they intend to read.  That's the part that doesn't really feel Lenten because they're all good books.  However, there have been a few days when I was tired, didn't want to read, and wanted to "vegitate" on the computer instead.  I read anyway.

WoadtoWuin I started with Woad to Wuin, the second volume in Peter David's "Sir Apropos of Nothing" trilogy.  It's intense and gory, and it makes the first volume (post here) seem light and cheery.  Older son and daughter have both also been reading the trilogy.  I realized that this actually goes along with my morning, devotional reading - there's a lot of slaughtering in the book of Judges, and Woad to Wuin gives a possible picture of what those battles may have been like. 

The book of Judges is not one of Daughter's favorites.  I'm not too crazy about it either with all the slaughtering.  And, what are you supposed to learn from the story of Jephthah, besides "Be careful what you promise"?  Today, I did enjoy the story of Sampson's parents (Judges, chapter 13).  The angel tells his mother that she will bear a son.  She tells her husband who prays that the angel could return and tell them how to raise the boy.  After the angel returns and they receive the instructions, the husband tells the angel that they will prepare a kid  for him.  The angel says they should sacrifice it to the Lord.  When they do so and the angel ascends in the flame from the altar, the husband says that they will surely die for they have seen the Lord.  His wife, in a very matter of fact fashion, replies:  "If the Lord had desired to kill us, He would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering from our hands, nor would He have shown us all these things, nor would He have let us hear things like this at this time" (Judges 13:23).

Continue reading "My Non-Lenten Lenten Reading" »

Linkfest: December 21, 2008

PC030290 I never made it to church this morning.  I've been lightheaded all day, and I've had to keep my leg elevated because of swelling.  The good news is that my foot is now a normal color, and my ankles are a more normal size. 

I missed Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day this month since that was my surgery day.  I haven't been outside since surgery so here's my floral view:  the wonderful azalea dear husband got me for our anniversary last February.  It's in our bedroom, on my side of the bed, and it's what I wake up to in the morning (along with WCPE).

Here are some fun and/or interesting things I've run across lately:

...3.  Finnish is elegant and economic. You can say so much more with just one word. For example “epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydellänsäkään”. Ok, so that isn’t a word anybody would really ever use, but technically it’s still correct. It means something like, “even with his or her (notice how awkwardly I need to express that) ability to not make others more disorganized”. The downside to this is that if you want to participate in NaNoWriMo in Finnish, you have to produce quite a lot more content.

[Hat tip to 3quarksdaily]
  • The rise of the late baby boomers:  Barack Obama and many of the people he's bringing to Washington came of age after the Vietnam War and the civil rights struggles. Their shared experiences offer insights into how they may govern -  Interesting contrast between the attitudes of the regular baby boomers (not me) and the late baby boomers (me). 
  • The Popdose 100:  Our Favorite Singles of the last 50 years:  Some of my favorites:  "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder, "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding, "Wouldn't it Be Nice" by the Beach Boys, "Sister Golden Hair" by America, "What a Fool Believes" by the Doobie Brothers, and "Rock the Boat" by The Hughes Corporation.  Actually, those are all of my favorites that they list.  I liked some of the others before they were overplayed (:::cough "Bohemian Rhapsody" cough:::).  Any favorites of yours on the list?
...We're not teaching literature, we're teaching the professional study of literature: What we do is its own subject. Nowadays the academic study of literature has almost nothing to do with the living, breathing world outside. The further along you go in the degree ladder, and the more rarified a college you attend, the less literary studies relates to the world of the reader. The academic study of literature nowadays isn't, by and large, about how literature can help students come to terms with love, and life, and death, and mistakes, and victories, and pettiness, and nobility of spirit, and the million other things that make us human and fill our lives. It's, well, academic, about syllabi and hiring decisions, how works relate to each other, and how the author is oppressing whomever through the work. The literary critic Gerald Graff famously told us to "teach the conflicts": We and our squabbles are what it's all about. That's how we made a discipline, after all...  

Linkfest: July 14, 2008

P7100094 Last week was one of the most hectic weeks this year.  This week will be close, and we're all starting out tired from last week.  Other people have more energy to blog, however.  Here are some interesting and/or fun things I've found recently [and a totally irrelevant photo of a bee]:

...Iceland has become a top tourist destination for whale watching! The irony is quite strong because in Reykjavik harbor, the whale watching boats use the same dock as the whaling boats. On the right side of the dock were the whale watching boats with big signs. On the left were four rather sinister-looking black boats. If Kjartan had not pointed them out, I wouldn’t have known — that was the (entire!) Icelandic whaling fleet...

"Five Irrefutable Reasons Jude Should Listen to Me" ("Hey, Jude")
"Give Me Three Minutes and I'll Give You Indisputable Proof that I was Happier 24 Hours Ago" ("Yesterday")
"The Most Shocking Place to Discover the Solutions to All Your Problems!" ("Blowin' in the Wind")
or "41 Can't-Miss Ways to Improve Your Stalking Skills" ("Every Breath You Take")

(she also links to the Rolling Stone 500 greatest songs of all time (if you've got the free time!))

[Totally irrelevant photo of bluets at the Pigeon River (from our May mountain trip)]

Should we all be exposed to her daily output of breast milk every time we venture to the fridge?

The Globe columnist agreed with the office worker.  I agreed with Hoyden, who said:

You know, if the worst thing that’s happening in your life is that you caught a glimpse of someone else’s breastmilk in the work fridge last week, maybe you should thank your lucky stars and go do something useful in the world with all that spare energy.

I'll admit, when I was working part-time after older son was born, I would never have kept expressed milk in the fridge.  The condition in which some people left the coffee area?!  There was no way I'd let them get their grubby paws anywhere near my baby's meal!

  • Billy Joel is doing two concerts at the soon-to-be-demolished Shea Stadium.  The New York Times has an interesting article, Just the Way He Is:

...If you’re tired of hearing “Just the Way You Are,” well, he’s tired of playing it. (“It’s a wedding song,” he says. “I also feel hypocritical. I divorced the woman I wrote it for.”) If you wince when you hear “Honesty,” well, so does he, on the inside. (“You hypocrite,” he says he thinks to himself. “Since when are you Mr. Sincerity?”)

And if he doesn’t sing “Uptown Girl,” he mimics what you’re thinking with a slight rise in his voice: “He’s probably mad at Christie.” In fact it has nothing to do with Christie Brinkley, his second ex-wife, but with the lost ability to hit the very high notes with consistency.

He may be one of the most successful performers in the world, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, an extraordinarily gifted musiciaStreetlifeserenaden who can move from rock to ballad to soulful doo-wop, who can capture with a few spare words the dreams and disappointments of clerks and secretaries rocking their lives away on the Long Island Rail Road...

[Hat tip to Popdose]

 Here's Billy Joel's "Root Beer Rag" from his album Streetlife Serenade (right).

"The Singing Revolution"

SingingRevolution My mother highly encouraged us to see The Singing Revolution, which is a wonderful film about Estonia's history and fight for freedom.  Obviously I listened, and I rearranged the week so that we could go see it before it left tomorrow (we waited until older son was off today so that he could see it too). 

It's difficult for me to describe the movie for two reasons.  First, it sounds very odd.  A "singing revolution?!" Against the might of the USSR?!  When these events happened, 1987 - 1990, I didn't have the Internet as a source of news about small countries.  Smaller details of the breakup of the Soviet Union, like the events in the Baltic states, didn't get widespread press.  Older son was born in 1988 so I didn't have the time to research it.  I knew what little was in the mainstream news and in English articles that my mother passed on to me from Vaba Eesti Sona (Free Estonian Word), an Estonian-American newspaper. 

The "Singing Revolution" was possible because of worldwide public opinion and because there were so many other things going on in the soon-to-be-no-more Soviet Union that, although the Soviet army did enter Estonia, it did not follow through. 

And why singing?  Singing has always been a primary expression of Estonian culture; in fact, the mEstonianFestivalovie mentions that Estonia has one of the largest  collections of folk songs. Singing was a way to keep their culture and unity alive during the Soviet occupation.  For over 100 years, including during the occupation, the Tallinn Song Festival has brought Estonians together (right - the stage holds 25,000 singers).  Though the movie ranges through Estonian history and includes very interesting interviews with participants in the revolution, it is unified by the choral rehearsals and performances. 

The second reason I find it difficult to describe the movie is that it swept me away.  It's beautifully filmed.  The singing is wonderful, and the way it is used in the background, even in the non-singing scenes, kept the movie together.  I'm not a student of cinematography, but the pacing also worked very well.  There are many dark chapters in the history of Estonia under Soviet rule that had to be presented, but, as tragic as they are, they don't overwhelm the film.  It always comes back, at the right time, to the hope of the Estonian people as expressed through their singing.

Here's the trailer.  Hopefully, it will give you a feel for the movie:

There were various aspects of the film that struck me very personally.  One aspect was the language.  I didn't learn how to speak Estonian while growing up, but it turns out that I know more Estonian than I thought.  I would recognize various words that I know from Christmas carols or from listening to my Estonian relatives.  Another aspect was the variety of Estonian accents; one sounded just like my uncle (daughter agreed). 

The aspect that kept me busy in the beginning of the film, however, was Estonian appearances.  With my straight, blond hair and round face, I've always felt that I looked unusual - particularly when we lived in New York.  Even in North Carolina, where more people are blond, they're not usually the Scandinavian/Baltic type.  Since I was little, I've always looked at books on Estonia to find women, or girls, who looked like me.  In these scenes of large choruses of singing Estonians, I would see women who looked familiar - closer to what I see in the mirror.  Interestingly, in one scene of a boys' choir rehearsal, I saw a boy who resembled younger son.*  Even in an Estonian movie, of course, most didn't look all that much like me, but many resembled various relatives or friends of my parents'. 

It turns out, by the way, that I was wrong about today being the last day.  The film is playing at the Galaxy Cinema** in Cary at 1 pm through next week.  I also highly recommend seeing it.  However, it's not for small children.  The movie blog doesn't recommend it for children under 9 or 10.  Even though there is very little violence in it (far less than in action movies) when someone is shot by a Soviet soldier, it's real.  And then the soldier goes to the edge of the pit and shoots them again. 

A non-violent revolution, after all the violence that Estonians suffered (on one day, June 14, 1941, 10,000 Estonians were rounded up and sent to Siberia***).  That's what surprised me most of all.

I really wanted to share the movie on my blog, but I knew I couldn't do it justice.  I wrote anyway.  Tomorrow, I will post links and quotes from others about it and also more about the actual history.  

* I hoped younger son wouldn't be bored at the movie.  It turns out that he loved it too and said that he likes history (which was news, good news, to me!).

** Which, if I don't get around to blogging about it again, is a really nice independent theater which shows art house and foreign movies.  I wish it weren't so far away - both of the previews we saw (one for broadcasts of La Scala operas and one for an Israeli film) looked very interesting.  We'd go back and see them if it weren't so far.   The snack bar is also exceptional for a movie theater - cappucino (if you like that sort of thing), espresso, pastries, and good popcorn (we don't like the popcorn at regular theaters) with real butter (rather than the oily stuff usually put on popcorn).

*** Altogether up to 60,000 Estonians were killed or deported in the 1940s.  June 14 is now Leinapäev, Day of Mourning and Commemoration.  (from the Estonian Embassy website)

[Festival photo from Tallinn-Life.com]


...means "Complaints Choir" in Finnish. It describes a situation where many people are complaining at one time. 

Choirs and singing are very important in Finland - and in my life.  My Finnish grandparents met when my grandfather saw my grandmother singing in a choir. 

While browsing through the internet this evening, I ran across Finnish Choral Complaining.  The Chawed Rosin has a good introduction to this video:

Here’s another clever Finnish invention: complaints choirs. Anyone who wants to can join the choir and submit complaints. Then the gripes are set to music and performed for fellow citizens and videotaped to post on the internet.

PRI's The World has an article on Complaints Choirs Worldwide:

Tellervo Kalleinen is a Finnish video artist who lives in Helsinki. Some time ago, she and her German-born husband Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen were talking about the nature of complaints how everyone makes them and no one likes to hear them.

“And I spontaneously got excited and I said to Oliver, you know in Finnish vocabulary we have a word "vvalituskuoro" which literally means complaints choir, and you use this in the situations where you feel everybody's just complaining. And you might say "you are all like one big complaints choir." And so very quickly we got this idea that hey we should actually take this word very literally and make complaints choir.”

Kalleinen and her husband had been offered a residency at an arts institute in Birmingham, England, and it was there that the first complaints choir was born. The artists placed ads in local papers inviting people to send in their complaints.

The choir was formed by some of the people who responded to the ads. The gripes - like the quality of the singing voices -- varied wildly, from shoddy town planning to too expensive beer. The experience convinced Kalleinen that she'd tapped into a deep-seated and universal need to complain - and to do it collectively. Next, she targeted Helsinki.

You can't get rich by working…and love doesn't last forever. Those are the opening shots of a 6-minute ode to kvetching. Helsinki eclipsed Birmingham by the sheer magnitude of its complaints.

“We had thought that the maximum number of complaints we can just handle in a workshop is like 40 or something/Then we just started to get in more and more people and finally we had 90 people, and of course it was our principle not to say no for anybody, so what could we do other than try to find a bigger rehearsal space than we had thought about.”...

[Hat tip to lines of flight]

Link Feast - April 19, 2008

I haven't done a link feast in a while.

  • You can get mesmerized playing with the stringwave.
  • When we're hiking, I love finding traces of old, overgrown roads.  BLDBLOG has an interesting post on Ancient Roads.

...The article refers to one local, a lawyer, who explains that "he loved getting out and looking for hints of ancient roads: parallel stone walls or rows of old-growth trees about 50 feet apart. Old culverts are clues, too, as are cellar holes that suggest people lived there; if so, a road probably passed nearby."
Think of it as landscape hermeneutics: hunting down traces of a disappeared landscape...

...if we bumped male requirements up to something as specific as the requirements for women, the US film and TV industry would lose all its leading men overnight (just “underweight” wipes out the whole brigade, though I’m sure some of them would be willing to starve if their careers were on the line). And wouldn’t that be a pity for all those women, including me, who find quite a few American lead actors attractive despite their “flaws”? Or because of them? 

...This week will undoubtedly witness a great deal of back and forth and back again about Heston's politics, given that most people last saw him not in character but at the podium of NRA rallies. But during his career Heston was an actor who approached each role with deep seriousness, repeatedly returning to the stage in between films until the lines would no longer stay in his memory...

  • In a post about dating tall women at Megan McArdle's Blog, one commenter says (emphasis mine):

...assuming there is any talking to be done, act like size doesn't matter much... what would you do differently if she was only 5'? There are logistics differences in sweeping women off their feet, but making her the only important being in the room covers most of them, IMHO.

Good advice.