Academic Romance in Helsinki
“The University is just full of love affairs, three-way love dramas, and incredible stories of hate, jealousy and revenge.” Kirsti Manninen is a docent at the University of Helsinki. She and Annina Holmberg have recently written a soap opera set at the University, entitled Academy of Hearts. The writing team had no problems finding material for their script. “The majority of the stories we heard were so charming, so utterly romantic that we couldn¦t have even used them because they don¦t sound real. We couldn¦t have written about the student that enclosed a love letter in her test envelope, for example, because viewers wouldn¦t have found that believable,” explained Manninen.
But it did happen. In the fall of 1996, a lovely young graduate student, Johanna Hainari walked into Professor of Law Jukka Kekkonen¦s room. A romance began. In an effort to save Kekkonen¦s existing marriage, Johanna tried to put out the flames with some time abroad. Upon her return, she wrote Kekkonen a poem which she slipped in between her test papers. The couple was married in April 1998 and later that spring Kekkonen published the poem in the University magazine, Yliopisto. The magazine received some critical feedback, instructors are usually quiet about relationships with their students. Kekkonen replies, “Male/female relationships at the University are largely understood in terms of gender equality or sexual harrassment, with good reason. But love never seems to come up in discussion.”
During her time as as Assistant Professor of Finnish Literature, Manninen has come to know the power and love struggles that take place within the University walls. Despite what many may think, Academy of Hearts is actually an understated equivalent of what the true situation is. Each of her characters is a reflection of several true figures and now those University members that have seen the script are whispering among themselves as to who is who. Kekkonen too assures us that romance is prevalent in the daily goings-on of the University. Relationships between students and researchers are most common, but instructor/student romance is not so unusual, either. One noted teacher of literature has found all four of his wives in different thesis seminar groups.
Hidden Favoritism Inhibits Women
Women outnumber men among university graduates in Finland, and even among doctoral candidates women hold their own. But when academic positions come into question, the situation changes radically. While 40% of disser-tations are female-authored, a mere 20% of professorships are held by them. It was thought that time would change the situation: when women reached a certain age and station, professorships would come along with it.
A study by the Finnish Academy last year however points out a different trend. At the same time that the number of women doctors has increased, the number of women professors is decreasing. One reason for this development is presumed to be the current trend of Oprofessor invitations¦ in Finland, whereby candidates are expressly invited to fill a position in the university, as opposed to open application processes. The President of the country names a mere handful of women to professorships in Finland each year.
Sociologist Liisa Husu is preparing her dissertation on the status of academic women. She feels that women are still considered new-comers to the academic sphere. Although there is little anymore to directly deter their progress, women still have to struggle in the traditionally male world of the university against Ogood old boy¦ clubs, and work distribution in com-mittees – for example, when women are assigned routine work, while men are free to be creative and direct the process – the lack of support and encouragement, sexual harrassment and discri-mination and general patronizing of women and their research work.
“The good old boy phenomenon can pop up during a simple soccer game every Wednesday for the men of the department. There they exchange hints on where to apply for grant money and what congresses to attend – It may all be very innocent, but women are excluded none the same,” says Husu. There have been cases of gender favoritism in the University, 30 complaints have been filed in the 90s and some have gone to court. The University has been forced to pay damages in several of them. Husu believes that there are many more cases that are never reported. “In such a small country with a tiny academic community, everyone knows everyone else and no one wants to be labeled a troublemaker.”
The King of Gonzo – Hunter S. Thompson
1971. It was the decade of peace, love and rock and roll. Richard Nixon ran America, the Vietnam war was raging, the Beatles split up and Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix all died in the last year. The world is ready to embrace an odd reporter, sacked from Air Force Intellegence with a minor criminal record: Hunter S. Thompson.
Thompson (1939-) has since become one of the world¦s most famous writers. His writing career began with an article that became a book Hell¦s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gang (1966), in which he describes the six months he spent with a group of bikers. His trip and the book ends when Thompson, high on drugs, claims his bike is bigger than his cohorts and proceeds to be beaten senseless. Thompson, who had earlier written for mainstream magazines, found inspiration for his writing from the biker gang and from their present to him: LSD.
Thompson is most famous for the style of his writing, known as Ogonzo journalism¦. Gonzo comes from the spanish word Ogonzagas¦, translated freely as Oscrewing around¦. But gonzo isn¦t just that, at its best it can be sharp satire and social critique. The gonzo reporter describes the world subjectively, from a personal perspective. Instead of concentrating on the essential, it looks at everything but. Thompson wrote what has become the pearl of gonzo journalism, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, written originally for Sports Illustrated, which refused to publish it, and eventually appearing in Rolling Stone before publication as a book. Just a list of what Thompson brought with him to Las Vegas paints the scene. “We had two bags of grass, seventyfive pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-power blotted acid, half a salt shaker¦s worth of cocaine, a whole galaxy of multicolor uppers, downers, screamers, laughers… And a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether, and two dozen amyls.”
Thompson will turn 60 next year. His doctors told him he should have died already ten years ago. In 1990, he went to court for illegal possession of weapons and drugs. Thompson is making a story of his life and adapting gonzo as his mode of operation. Now Ex-Monty Python Terry Gilliam, director of 12 monkeys and Brazil, has made a film about Thompson¦s most famous book and life.
Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas: A Savage Journey Into the Heart of the American Dream opens in Helsinki on October 10.
Zambia’s Political Cartoonist Trevor Ford
Trevor Ford, an artist from Wales, England has lived in Zambia for 17 years. Throughout the one party leadership of Kenneth Kaunda, Ford painted abstract art. In the early 90s he became a political cartoonist, a thorn in the side of the current democratically elected President, Frederick Chiluba.
Ford figures that over one million Zambians read his cartoons daily in the leading opposition paper, The Post. “In a poor country, the political cartoon acts as the voice of the little people. Often they can¦t vote, or if they do, there is no change, just another bunch of idiots to replace the old ones,” he explains. “Those without a chance to change anything are offered a chance to laugh at least.”
Ford has decided to defend prisoners sitting in jail cells before they can be given a fair trial, as well as the rights of women and children. He has also declared war on corrupt politicians, mobile phones and globalisation. He has been brought to court once, but no charges were levied. “The Western countries are following the recovery of African democracy closely. The Zambian government can¦t afford to arrest an insignificant political cartoonist from Wales,” says Ford.
by Pamela Kaskinen