South Park is Finally Here
The cult animation series South Park is coming to Finland. Most everyone has heard about its crude and base humor, but few have yet to see an episode. Why is this simply animated show about school kids so popular and who is behind it?
Trey Parker and Matt Stone met at a film study class at the University of Colorado. In 1997, after a few short films, the pair was asked to direct an animation series for the cable channel Comedy Central and South Park began. Logic would tell us the South Park should have never become a hit, let alone become a hit in Finland, but there is nothing logical about South Park. Parker and Stone like to take anything logical, moral or humane and turn it on its ear. They have a great feel for popular culture and the daring to say anything they want about it.
The first episode had aliens and farts, the cow was declared the smartest being on Earth and the Chef, alias Isaac Hayes, sings a super cool tune. In the Pink Eye episode, worchester sauce turns the town into bloodthirsty zombies. On others Jesus has a show on a local cable channel and a teacher undergoes plastic surgery to become a David Hasselhoff look-a-like. As many of you have probably heard, the character of Kenny is killed on the show every week. Since the show’s inception, he has been blown up in a microwave, pecked to death by turkeys, caught up in an escalator and hit by the Mir Space Station.
South Park can be seen each Thursday at 11:10 p.m. on channel MTV3 starting on October 7th.
Things are getting crowded for the Finnish Parliament up on Arcadia Hill these days as students and young politicians compete for assistant positions, a fast track way to get their foot in the door. Applicants are willing to go without vacation, steady work, an office, a personal computer and even lunch to press the hands of the people with decision-making clout and fluff up their curriculum vitaes. If they want a business card, however, they’ve got to make it themselves.
170 out of total 200 Finnish parliamentarians has an assistant. Over 50 of these are students that are active in the university political groups. Several have even run for office in local or national elections. For many, the job isn’t so political. In interviews Ylioppilaslehti conducted, several reported that their job was to simply help the elected officials, no matter if their opinions differed greatly from their own. No one wants to step on the toes of their boss, especially when they might get some good ‘inside information’ along the way.
The assistants program in the Finnish Parliament is relatively new. It was introduced in 1995, and by April of 1997, the first assistants began work at a whopping 3 800 FIM monthly salary. Naturally, the first assistants were the grown children and godchildren of the parliamentarians. Rules were then created: Assistants needed to be between the ages of 18 and 65 and could not be a family member or live in the same home with the parliamentarian.
Today the salary is 10 000 FIM a month before taxes. What began as an effort to increase technical support has added to the number of players with political influence. The proof? The number of written questions and initiatives in parliament has doubled.
No self-respecting parliamentarian need read mail, make copies, look through newspapers and magazines or check e-mail. A good assistant can do that work instead and pick out what it relevant. If they can find a free computer, assistants can write speeches, references, proposals and press releases. In other words, while the assistants save time for parliamentarians, their work is slowing down the Parliament! Assistants are quick to defend their part in parliamentary democracy: parliamentarians can concentrate on their work, and leave the routine things behind and citizens can now reach someone at all times.
But assistants do have their opponents: parliamentarians. Some elected officials think that too many assistants are taking themselves too seriously. Young mobile phone carriers in suits crowd the halls of the parliamentary building and line up in front of the copy machines and in the cafes. “Shouldn’t those with seniority be allowed to go first?” ask some. The budget supporting the assistants grows each year, next year 31 million Finnmarks will be used just for salaries. Next year, each assistant will receive a laptop and money for travel expenses. A new building is being built near Arcadia Hill and each assistant has been promised their own room.
Academic Prostitution in Balkan area
A recent Unicef report says that women and young girls are the biggest losers in Eastern Europe’s struggle to enter the free market. The move from socialism has meant the dissolution of most social programs and economic systems. The poverty and unemployment has been reflected most strongly among women: prostitution has grown explosively. Countries with virtually no unemployment previously now have a population of 26 million that have lost their jobs.
Romania has an unemployment percentage of 9.2 % and Bulgaria’s is over 13 %. In countries with these kinds of situations, it is difficult to be a student. Money is scarce, professors expect bribes and student apartments have broken windows and toilets. The standard diet of a student is simple: bread, milk and melons.
“Young and very attractive Romanian students to be your private hostesses”, the local magazine of Bucharest What, Where and When advertises in English. Each month there are at least 20 similar ads. One ad is from a firm named Beauty Queens. When called, a young, sexy voice explains that all of their girls are between the ages of 18 and 23 and are smart, clean university students that are ready to do anything the customer wants. One hour costs $120, an entire night is 200. The woman’s name is Laura, she is 21 years old and studies law in Bucharest.
Later that day in a cafe, Laura talks about her situation. “Being an escort is just a good paying summer job for me. She is tall and slender, buxom, with dark hair and plenty of lipstick and perfume. “We make as much in a day as some of our colleagues make all summer,” she explains. The average wage in Romania is $130 a month. “Last fall I vacationed in Switzerland. The majority of Romanians couldn’t even dream of a holiday in a western country. I doubt I will ever live this good a life later – even after I become a lawyer.”
Marina, 26, answered an ad for escorts four years ago. After three years of living the high life and letting her studies fall behind, she finally quit ‘whoring’ and returned to the university. “Romanian universities are full of beautiful, but naive and poor women. They have just moved to the city from the country like I had and can think of nothing better than to spend the night in a fine hotel with a handsome, rich foreign man,” Marina explains. “Often the girls don’t even understand that they are whores. They imagine that the men that pay them really love them and will take them away.”
No study aid exists in Romania any longer and those few students with scholarships receive at most $20 a month.
by Pamela Kaskinen