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Petri Wessman's weblog

The artist formerly known as Jane Siberry

Love is everything they said it would be
Love made sweet and sad the same
But love forgot to make me too blind to see
You’re chickening out aren’t you?
You’re bangin’ on the beach like an old tin drum
I can’t wait ‘til you make the whole kingdom come
So i’m leaving

– Jane Siberry, “Love Is Everything”

Past the teeming marketplace and the blur of faces there
Past the silent dockyards and the darkness looming there
Maybe it won’t work this time but that’s the risk you take
(and you want to take it)
and just as long as it feels right doesn’t matter
Just as long as…doesn’t matter
Gotta feel good though you don’t know why

The life is the red wagon rolling along
The life is the red wagon keeps the feet upon the ground
The life is the red…is the red…oh, it’s no big deal
But when the feet are draggin’
You pull me
and I pull for you
You pull me
and I pull for you
The life is the red wagon simple and strong

– Jane Siberry, “The Life is the Red Wagon”

Jane Siberry is strange, I admit that out front. She’s also one of the few people who can write songs that can make me cry, that just mean something. Part of that emotional resonance comes from me living a long, emotionally turbulent time on a soundtrack composed of Siberry, Tori, and some others – many songs are so twisted up with flashbacks to another place and time that I honestly can’t tell what they are like as just songs, objectively; they have so much attached to them – good or bad, sometimes both at the same time.

I have yet to meet anyone else who really likes Jane Siberry, I think she’s just too weird for most people. I find it puzzling that someone can listen to songs like “The Taxi Ride”, “Love Is Everything”, “Red High Heels”, “The Walking (and constantly)” etc without going “wow” and stopping whatever they were doing just to listen, to think… but that’s the way it is. To me, she sings about what life really means, the important bits. To most others, it’s just a strange Canadian chick with artsy music and a quirky voice. C’est la vie.

As this interview from 1999 notes:

“Jane Siberry is not easy. She sings about dogs, God, angels, sex and more in a multi-octave voice unhampered by considerations of gravity. The style of one album seldom has anything to do with that of the next. Even her hair won’t stay the same.”

“Yet despite the incredible quality attached to her almost inhuman level of productivity, Siberry is often treated by the media with the sort of respectful annoyance usually reserved for brilliant if slightly-deranged aunts.”

I won’t try to convince anyone that she’s great, or that you should listen to her, that would be an exercise in futility. It either works for you or it doesn’t, simple as that. If you’re interested, check out Sheeba, her (ex)music company, they sell some of her mp3’s with a “pay as much as you want” pricing scheme. Not all of her major-label stuff is there, though, for that you need CDs or iTunes.

What I do want to comment on is the strange and brave thing she just did: this June, she sold her house and all possessions, and dumped the rest in the trash. She also changed her name to ”Issa”. Why? Because it just felt right, because she wanted to get rid of all the clutter in her life, “just because”.

Actually doing something like that is something I admire very much. I’m not sure I could do it myself… or more precisely, if I would do it, I’m pretty sure I could if needs be. I’m not all that materialistic, but I do like having a home full of old books, music and stuff I love. I don’t feel it weighs me down… but if I did, maybe I’d just dump it all. Maybe not. I’ll find out if I need to find out.

So she’s on the road now, touring and living in hotels and with friends. What next? Some new music, probably some new musical styles, whatever works. Whatever makes her happy. And that’s precisely how it should be.

It’s too easy to get caught up, to never stop and think about what you’re doing.

As a side note, a friend once remarked to me (after several drinks, at another friend’s wedding), that “I’ve always admired the way you always do precisely what you want, no matter what people think”. I don’t know if that’s true or not… I wish it was, but I don’t think it strictly is. I think compared to the quite conservative lifestyles and choices of that group of friends (fellow students from TKK), that remark is quite true. I consider it a compliment, though I guess not everyone would.

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TV, Veronica Mars and Mythbusters

I often say “I don’t watch TV” or “I don’t like TV much”, but neither of those are strictly true. It’s true that I extremely rarely watch normal broadcast TV from the physical TV device – after getting various ways of not being tied to TV broadcast schedules, I have zero interest on being in front of the TV at a specific time just to see some show. In addition, I have low tolerance for commercials, so looking at “normal” TV seems to me a stupid reversion back to the dark ages. It’s what my parents did and what I did as a kid, good riddance to all that.

On the other hand, I do watch quite a few shows made for television. I like serial fiction, “TV series”, in general, assuming they are good. Nowadays when I hear of some potentially interesting new series, I download a bunch of episodes from the ‘net and watch the thing (often while doing other stuff, a playback window fits pretty nicely next to a web browser or editor window). If I really like the series, I usually get the DVD box, and maybe watch is again at some point with surround sound and the works.

I think that’s the future of “television”, anyway: lots of content you can watch at the time and place you want, on the device you want. I really don’t see serialized “TV” fiction going away, quite the opposite – with the global reach of the Net and new marketing schemes, you can maybe start to do things that you could never (financially or otherwise) do on “normal” broadcast TV. Cable TV companies like HBO has already shown us how big a jump in quality you can get when you don’t depend on advertising revenues and when you can ignore the “you can’t show that on TV!” crap.

I do think broadcast TV is a dying thing, sort of like radio. It’ll linger on, but will slowly stop being a focus of things. I think that’s a good thing, since if there’s anything I hate, it’s the habit some people have of automatically switching the TV on when they get home and watching TV without really watching it. You ask them “what are you watching?” and they say “nothing really, I just put the TV on”. I mean, what the fuck? If you want to sit around then sit around, do something slightly more intelligent while you’re at it. Sitting on the couch day in day out drooling and getting fat while watching insipid sitcoms and commercials – ugh.

That’s not to say that it’s always a bad thing to just collapse on the couch and watch TV without really watching it. Sometimes you just need to mentally zero things, and zombie out. But when it becomes a daily habit, you have a problem.

Ok, after that rant I think I’ll mention a few shows that I’ve started watching recently which deserve special mention.

Veronica Mars

This one was a bit of a surprise. I had never even heard of the show, and if I had I’m not sure that the premise of “sort of like modern-day Nancy Drew set in a Florida high school” would have made me go “gotta see it!”. More likely the opposite.

However, at the Ropecon dead dog party Ken Hite and Anu were discussing TV shows, after liberal quantities of alcohol. I missed the actual conversation, but talked about it with Anu later at the party… she was saying that “Deadwood” is the best thing currently on TV, and that Ken was rooting for something called “Veronica Mars”. I said I thought Deadwood rocks but had never heard of the other one. Well, I got a summary of the premise which left me a bit unconvinced, but I decided to check it out since someone with potentially good taste had said it was the best thing (or one of the best things, dunno) on TV.

Glad I did. I just watched the season ender of season 1, and promptly ordered the DVD box from Amazon. Best thing on TV? Maybe not… but in the top-something list, firmly. To be honest, I’m not sure what makes it tick, but I think it’s the same thing that made Buffy tick… good scripts, good actors with chemistry between them. That Buffy comparison isn’t totally frivolous, since although there are no supernatural elements here, there’s still a decided “Buffy” feel to the show somehow.

What’s it about? A dead best friend, a possible coverup, the “high school is hell” theme in general, biker boys with hearts of… well, silver perhaps, an ex-boyfriend who is maybe hiding a secret, a “bad boy” with more going on than it looks like. There are parties, alhocol, drugs, a possible rape, missing dogs, maybe-gangsta gansta rappers, internet jokes and not-at-all-jokes, secret societies… The theme is alienation, friendship despite alienation, and the “war” between the “haves” and the “have nots”, between the rich kids and the no-so-rich ones, about the ever-increasing class separation in the U.S.

Maybe all that makes it sound very serious, but it’s not, really. It’s not a comedy, but neither is it dark and gloomy drama; there’s a vein of wry and sarcastic humor running through the thing.

Me likes. How come I’ve never heard of this one before?

Mythbusters

This one I had heard of, but only in passing quotes. I had never seen it, and didn’t really know what it was about precisely. Well, after yet another “hey, I say this on Mythbusters!” quote somewhere I decided to educate myself.

Whoo. This is popular science the way I like it. These guys are seriously demented and do all the stuff you always wanted to do (explosions! avionics! more explosions! rockets! chicken cannons!), but instead of (imho slighly stupid) shows like Jackass and ilk, there’s a serious core here. The premise of the show is that they take “urban legends”, myths and whatever and do scientific experimentation to see if they are true or not. The whole thing is absolutely fascinating to watch, and frequently hilarious. And hey, I’ve actually learned a thing or two from this show already, sometimes the damnest myths turn out to actually be true…. sometimes for completely different reasons than you’d think, but still.

If they used this stuff in school science classes, you’d have a lot less sleeping students. I guarantee it.

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VTES 3rd edition prerelease

We had the prerelease tournament for the 3rd edition of VTES Sabbat yesterday at Fantsu. The turnout was pretty huge, we had 41 players in total. Much fun, we played 3 2-hour rounds (after drafting the boosters and using random precon starters). Kari Mäkinen and Tuomas Vuokko emerged as the winners, each got 3 game wins (i.e. won every one of the three games. Kudos. I personally got zero points, which I partly blame on the Tzimisce deck which simply didn’t have enough intercept to deal with the Malks, and partly on bad drafting. Naturally my playing had nothing to do with it… :)

The set looks pretty good; it brings a lot of previously hard-to-get old cards back into circulation, brings us a ton of new group 4 Sabbat vampires, and there’s a pile on brand new library cards. I especially liked the Master card that allowed a combat “intercept” for political actions, with no intercept needed. I suspect we’ll be seeing that one a lot in tournaments. I also suspect the Helicopter will become popular. We’ll see.

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I have never been in a fight. What's it like?

I read rpg.net (Tabletop Roleplaying Open) quite a lot; it’s one of the best web forums I know, partly because of the semi-demented regulars, partly because a lot of RPG writers and industry people also take part, and partly because it has pretty much the best forum moderation I know – the mods are strict about personal and group attacks, but otherwise allow (civilized) flamewars and you can say “fuck” whenever you want, if you want.

Anyway, recently rpg.net had a thread that was among the more interesting ones in recent memory, titled ”I have never been in a fight. What’s it like?”. So far (page 12) is has stayed on topic and provided a lot of input on what real fights are like. What I’ve read matches my experiences, for what little that is worth.

I’ve never been in a real fight, not even as a kid (I don’t count the occasional playgroup flailing and shoving as a “fight”). There have been a couple of situations that might have escalated, but didn’t. If I never get into an actual fight during my whole life, I’ll be perfectly happy.

On the other hand, I’m interested in (and train / have trained) various martial arts, from unarmed to swords to knives to whatever. Maybe that’s a paradox, but I don’t think it is – I’m not really a very pacifist person; I don’t go around looking for fights and I consider violence a pretty much last resort, but I also think there are times when it is justified. And besides, humanity has never been so inventive as when it tries to figure out ways to kill other people.

Based on my sparring experiences (which I fully know is nothing like a real fight), I agree with many of the people on that thread. Most people simply don’t know how to cope with violence, they freeze up or panic. What training gives you is potentially some little control, some little ability to analyze what’s going on instead of going deer-in-the-headlights, and some muscle memory that might help you react at the critical point without actually thinking about it much – because in a real fight, or even in a freeform sparring match, you don’t have that much time to think. Time behaves in a strange fashion, and adrenaline does even stranger things to you. In addition, most of your automatic reactions are just wrong, especially with swords or knives.

I still remember the first time I did any sort of martial arts training. It was at Niiniketo’s Jiu-Jitsu school in Helsinki, which was a pretty brutal introduction. Niiniketo is an ex-(kick?)boxer and it shows, he’s a big powerful man and and has a boxer mentality about things. “Pain is good”, etc. Not a place I’d recommend for anyone to train at, but I didn’t know better at the time and that school did teach me some straightforward fight stuff that are probably still somewhere in my muscle memory. It taught me how to hit people so I’d actually generate some power, and how to cushion blows – kickboxer stuff, basically. Luckily I’m so crap at kicks that I stopped that school after a bit over a year and moved on to saner teachers and martial art styles.

Anyway, the first time I did any sparring (not quite full-contact, but not lightweight either) I almost froze up. I was just so totally unused to someone attacking me, trying to actually kick and hit me. It went away quite fast and it was excellent learning material – but I still remember that feeling of utter confusion about being confronted with violence, even in a fairly safe environment like that.

I suspect that mental “getting used to it” is the main advantage people would get from formal martial arts classes with regards to a real fight. 99% of the fancy techniques will probably vanish from your paniced brain, but if you manage to not freeze and potentially get away as a result, it’s a win.

Not that I do or ever have done any sort of martial arts training from a “this will help me in fights” motive, I think that would be stupid. I do it from the need for excercise, and general interest in the subject. Most competent martial arts people I know are actually people who would generally avoid fights, maybe because they know full well how easy it is to seriously injure or even kill someone in a fight. The occasional “budo idiot” is the exception that proves that rule.

Violence is a weird (but understandable) taboo in our culture. Maybe that’s one of the many reasons I found Fight Club to be such a brilliant film.

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Ropecon VTES tournament report

The tournament report for Ropecon 2006 is starting to be in shape. I’m still hoping to get the last few deck listings and maybe a few more pictures, but those are small details. I’m glad I took the trouble to write down a transcript of the final round (never did that before); it’s fun to read it now to get an idea of what actually happened, and apparently other people have liked it too.

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Bad Wolf Bay

Just watched the end of the “2nd” (really Nth) season of Doctor Who. Well, the end of the second season of the “new” Doctor Who. Again I can say “wow!”. It took a few episodes for the latest Doctor to work for me, but now I can say he was even better than the 2005 incarnation; the same sort of manic self-confidence, with a touch more humor thrown into the mix. I’d place the 2005 series at about the same level as this one – some not-that-hot episodes, but some absolutely fantastic ones. The standout this time was the “Impossible Planet” 2-parter, in my opinion. Nothing quite like the ultra-spooky “Empty Child” stuff from 2005, but I think the overall episode quality was a bit higher this time around. Or… I don’t know. Call it a draw.

I haven’t seen a single episode of the old Doctor Who. Maybe I should, some day.

But come on… only 13 episodes per season? It’s unfair!

“Exterminate!”

Added later: seems that this series was actually the 28th season of Doctor Who, altogether. Wow.

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"I do"

Janne and Katja got married on Saturday, hooray! It was a fun and pretty traditional wedding, and we actually slept over at the party place – it was at Nuuksion Urheilumaja, which has lots of room. Friends, good food, more than enough alcohol, sauna, grill… what’s not to like?

As a funny coincidence, this was a civil wedding like ours last year, and the same woman who asked the critical questions from us then did the same for Janne and Katja now. It really is a small world.

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Float like a leaf on the wind... not

Footlight’s acrobatics courses started up again on Wednesday, and Janka & I bravely walked into “alkeisjatko”, the continuation of the beginner’s course. The interesting and slightly scary bit was a change in teachers; this year we have Langry, and old(ish) guy who’s done 25 years of circus acrobatics, 15 years of teaching acro and athletics at Teatterikorkeakoulu, and speaks nine languages. Like I said, slightly scary.

He turned out to be a good teacher, and not at all scary – but he is fairly demanding, I was feeling pretty dead after the initial warmup (which was a lot more vigorous than normal acro warmups), and now, two days later, my legs still hurt when I climb the stairs. But it’s a good kind of hurt, and mostly comes from not doing much athletics-wise for all too many months now. Lazy me, have to get moving again.

Anyway, was fun but tiring, we did the basic summersaults and handstand practice and the teacher checked out what our level was and probably tried to figure out how to actually start teaching us. I liked the fact that he did a lot of personal correction and was obviously watching everyone intently.

I wish this thing was twice a week, one hour a week is just not enough.

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