Teen Voting On the Net
This fall Finland will become the first country in Europe to experiment with a new Internet voting system for young people. Shadow elections for young people in Finland are nothing new, but the Internet voting system is – enabling young people to vote right from their school’s computer screen. Neuro `96 will provide half of the country’s 14-17 years olds, close to 200,000 students, with an opportunity to mock participate in the upcoming elections for Finnish representatives to the European Union. The voting day will fall on October 15 – the same day preliminary voting in Finland ends.
The youth cooperative Alliance has done most of the organization required to bring Neuro `96 to Finland. Ville Tenhunen, project secretary for the group, comments, “Some people claim that young people are passive members of society. Young people actually have no channels open to them to be able to participate in political discussion. Middle-aged people control the forum.” Internet technology will hopefully open up these channels. The idea behind the campaign is to encourage young people to become active participants in national discussions and be interested in what is happening in the society around them. For a look at Neuro `96, check http://neuro96.alli.fi/neuro96/As far as Internet voting is concerned, the University of Helsinki and various other organizations are considering its use. If the Internet voting system catches on, it could change our understanding of democracy fundamentally.
Berlin in 2002
Potsdamer Platz. The spot where all of Europe came together. Then came the war and the bombs. In Wim Wenders’ famous film, the old man walks along the wall talking to himself, “I can’t find Potsdamer Platz. Is it here? Is this the old café I once visited? I won’t stop until I’ve found Postdamer Platz.” Now the wall is gone. A small piece remains at Potsdamer Platz, as well as one solitary look-out tower. Berlin is preparing itself to become the capital of Germany and building construction is everywhere. Soon the famous square will be surrounded by steel, glass and marble temples reading Sony, Daimler-Benz and ABB. It’s ready even – at least in virtual reality. In the center of the square, the investors have created an Infobox with a simulated movie of the future center of Berlin. Over one million people have visited the Infobox in the last year.
Andrew S. Wilkinson is a 26 year old English architect who came to Berlin to work. He has been planning office buildings for Berlin and Leipzig. He feels the quality of the architecture is high compared to before the wall came down, when everything was concrete. “A seven construction firm mafia controlled everything. Prices were two times higher than West Germany and murder was even used to settle negotiations.” Andrew will be leaving Berlin soon. “At first, everything was so different and interesting. Now Berlin is becoming more international and more expensive. Soon it will be just another London or Paris.”
Spreading Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Looks like I’ve got clamydia. I think it’s wrong that I’ve been cursed with it and so I’m gonna go give it to someone else tonight. Just for spite. The chances of my succeeding are good – clamydia loves to jump from one mucous membrane to another, as long as there’s no condom around. If then, over the next year, if both of us were to have unprotected sex with three more people and they went on to have sex with three more people… I figure that in nine years, the entire student body of the University of Helsinki will have clamydia.
Okay, I don’t have clamydia. I was just kidding. I’ve actually decided that I am never going to have unprotected sex. Something I saw in the Benetton Colours magazine I read recently inspired this story. It went like this: Sara and Miguel meet in Paris and make love. They had both had about three partners a year previously. Benetton counted that if four years had passed, Sara and Miguel were actually carrying the sexual history of 1,460 people into bed with them. This when AIDS statistics in Paris are staggering. Last year, the Helsinki University Students Health Foundation didn’t treat a single AIDS case, but it did have 101 cases of clamydia.
Free is Fabulous
When I was a young girl, my father taught me an important lesson: Free is fabulous. If the village Sokos store was having free coffee and rolls, we kids were promptly packed into our Fiat and driven six kilometers into town for the free goodies. Last week at the carnival celebrating the opening of the academic year, I realized that my father was not the only one giving this advice. Nothing else could explain the near hysterical masses of university students that snatched up free movie tickets from Ylioppilaslehti and gobbled down free wine and cheese rolls from the new Rector. After 350 bottles of wine were exhausted, some poor unfortunates went without. The budget for the refreshments had even been increased by 10,000 marks and it wasn’t enough. Tickets for a special showing of Peter Greenaway’s new film The Pillow Book were gone in less than 15 minutes. Some eager beavers ripped them out of the distributor’s hands, stamping their neighbors’ toes to grab them from the air. All this to save 30 marks, the cost of a ticket to see the film at the Love and Anarchy festival.
Live Role Plays at Suomenlinna
The Korppi Klan took over Olavilinna a few weeks ago for a massive live role play. The entire castle was at the mercy of over one hundred 12-38 year old adventurers assuming the identities of members of Queen Kaarina Korpi’s royal court. This week, I am present while members of the Klan practice sword play at Suomenlinna. I’ve heard that role plays experiment with satanism, and have lots of sex and violence. I ask, “Are you satanists?” Mika Koverola answers, “You could just as easily accuse hockey players of Satan worship.” How about sex? Do role players really have intercourse in character? Hanna Koverola sighs, “That is up to the players, they can decide together what they want to do. The game’s leader doesn’t get involved.” That leaves violence. Players’ swords are a combination of plumbing pipes and duct tape. “Doesn’t it hurt being hit by one of those things?” I ask. In answer, Hanna takes a swipe at my leg. It hurts!
In live role plays, there are no scripts or lines, but the framework and scenarios are set by the game’s leader. Live role plays are more-or-less interactive theater, but role plays are usually played as board games. As a matter of fact, charges of satanism and the like have now decreased – role plays are now being played in schools and church groups. Ville Vuorela leads a role play group for teenagers in junior high, “We’ve had really positive results. All of the school’s worst hooligans play. They are enthusiastic and work well together in groups.” Klan member Henri is 17 years old and remembers being teased in school for being 10 centimeters shorter than the others. Henri has found new friends and self-confidence in the Korppi Klan. “Kind of like the boy scouts then, huh?” I ask. “No fucking way!” comes the angry reply. “Scout clubs are for white, heterosexual, Lutherans with 1.7 kids. They don’t understand anything about role plays.”
Ultra Bra – The Cream of Finnish Music
If the music world were to give awards for trendiness, this year’s winner would
definitely be the Helsinki band Ultra Bra. After their first hit last fall Ampukaa komisaarit nuo hullut koirat! (Shot the commissaries, those crazy dogs!), the press has praised the `revolutionary’ and fashionable work of UB so sincerely that expectations surrounding the release of their first album Vapaaherran elämää (A Baron’s Life) were perhaps unreasonably high. Their open association with the intellectual left has proven rather problematic, as well. The back cover of their album denies that the group sings political songs, preferring “loud, social protesting.” What the group means by this splitting of hairs remains obscure.
In any case, all of trendy talk and political hype surrounding UB isn’t even necessary. Baron’s Life is in all respects the most interesting, fresh and ambitious Finnish pop album in a long time. The song Kahdeksanvuotiaana (When I Was Eight) is a good example of what UB has to offer: Kerkko Koskinen’s original songs and melodies combined with Joel Melasniemi’s versitile guitar work. Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv could easily be Finland’s next Eurovision entry. A tasteful one even.