Finland Sunday

All it took was 8 hours sleep- interspersed with 4 hours of tossing and turning, so 12 hours or so total- so for me to feel like a human being again and fully enjoy my one day of downtime in Tampere.

Downtown Tampere (especially by the train station) is undistinguished to such a degree that you figure it has to be the product of a special effort. Even the one piece of public art (a bombed out Syrian house reassembled in Tampere) confused me at first insofar as I wasn’t sure if it was art or just detritus sitting in the middle of the town square. Oops.

Things get slightly better once you spot this Eastern Bloc style building with a moving Viking ship named “Harald” on it.


Fortunately, things started to look up once I crossed the river into what seemed like a (slightly) more historic part of town.


And then I got to Pispala and Pyynikki, which are clearly the highlight of any trip here. The forest that sits at the top of Pyynikki and gently slopes down the hill toward the town is remarkable; its hard to imagine what real Finnish forest must feel like when you get further north. This little patch of trees was impressive enough, and a huge contrast to the center of town.


The most remarkable thing is that no less than 20 feet to the left is a highway. But stare straight ahead and you’d have no idea there was a road in sight.

The road then took me to the lovely neighborhood of Pispala, which is full of great little (and not so little) wooden houses. Like many “cute” places, its origins are entirely working class:

In 1937, things were not quite as rosy when the city reluctantly accepted the rugged residential area as part of its territory. Pispala was then inhabited by railroad and factory workers and was notorious for its restless life and ongoing rumbles. Now those days are gone and Pispala with its narrow streets, beautifully restored wooden houses and magnificent views towards the two large lakes is one of the most popular Sunday promenade destinations and residential areas.


And also some good political street graffiti.


The highlight though (and the first of two carbo loads for the morning) was the Pispala Cafe, where I drank coffee, ate pancakes, bacon, sausage, and eggs, and read some really interesting blog posts on Vox and elsewhere about the Christian / Episcopalian aspects of A Wrinkle in Time (the book and the movie)  and what the movie loses by downplaying the faith of the book. (You can skip this next part if you’re uninterested in the ramblings of a lapsed Anglican).



[I’d always been suspicious of how 21st century Hollywood would deal with the weird, mystical, and frankly Christian aspects of L’Engle’s masterwork, and it turns out I was right to be worried. I know enough hard-core atheists that I can understand why Ava DuVernay and her writing team left the various quotations from the Gospels out, and generally downplayed the religion in favor of a celebration of diversity, love, and a battle of generic good vs. generic evil. I would have been pretty nervous to take  any of these friends to the Wrinkle in Time movie I might have wanted to see. But from the reviews, it sounds like there’s definitely something missing. Its’ almost impossible to conceive that liberal mainline artistic Christian like L’Engle was ever possible in America, and only speaks to the polarization and anti-intellectualism so common contemporary life that we can’t imagine it. What’s worse, the whitewashing of religion only feeds the anti-Hollywood paranoia of the religious American right, and pretty much cedes the field to them and their weird-ass insipid God movies. But its impossible for it to be  otherwise, sadly, in today’s world, which doesn’t care much about complexity or contradiction.]

[One of the things I remember about Wrinkle in Time and its’ sequels from I was a kid (besides being utterly convinced that the only woman for me would have to be like Meg Murray) is its’ utter weirdness. And as a moderate adult atheist, I think Wrinkle helped me understand what was salvageable from the faith my parents tried (and failed) to instill in me as a kid. I came across this Corinthians quote- which marks the central moment of the book- in the Vox article I mentioned above, and I still remember it as being a part of Wrinkle that, as a kid, literally caused me to vibrate and levitate out of my my chair. It still moves me now. It may be the only part of the bible I actually like.] 

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. 

There’s got to be something you can take away from that.


Anyway, perhaps it was just all the sugar that got me thinking about this stuff. And there was more sugar to come, once I popped by the Pyynikki observation tower where I had more coffee and a donut. Because why not? My phone tells me I’m above 10,000 steps already. From the tower you could see two lakes, the wooden houses, and the industrial skyline. That smile is the smile of a man who had pancakes and a donut, and 8 hours sleep. With a sauna still to come.




Writing About Factual Media in an Age of Extremes

I have a new post up at Public Seminar (run out of the New School), “Writing About Factual Media in an Age of Extremes,” which is part of a new vertical I am editing with my friends and colleagues Shannon Mattern and Julia Sonnevend. We are also accepting short (1000 words or less) submissions about media and communications written for a general audience, so please submit if you are interested.

An excerpt:

One could make the argument that the debates animating the New School were born in the aftermath of that original Manhattan Project, the Cold War it indirectly spawned, and the questions it raised about political responsibility, the meaning of liberalism, and the purpose of intellectuals in an irrational age. As I’ve browsed this website, it seems clear that these topics continue to inform the pages of Public Seminar. And so I would like to briefly take five of these issues, detach them from their Cold War context, and reframe them in order to talk about the role of media and communication in our new “age of extremes.”

Read the rest here.


Moses died yesterday, Sunday, March 4, in Brooklyn. She was nearly 16 years old, and had (I think) about as good a life as a puny runt found under a car in Brooklyn can have. I mean, ok, let’s face it. Her life was awesome. Which didn’t stop her from being perennially crabby, in good New York City style. The end came very fast. It seems she did not suffer much , which is a blessing.

I have missed her very much since September, and I miss her even more now.

Moses living the Mad Men life in LA.