Brief in English


Student Representative Banned From Independence Day Ball

Without explanation, President Ahtisaari broke a decades long tradition this last December when he cancelled the standing invitation for a representative The National Union of Finnish Students (SYL) to attend the Independence Day Ball festivities.Each year on December 6, Finnish Independence Day, the President invites representatives from throughout the country to the Presidential Palace for a lavish night of eating and dancing. The Ball is perhaps the largest media event of the year for Finns, televised live. There is a great deal of significance behind who the President invites each year, sports heroes, parliamentarians, military representatives, entertainers, business bigwigs, media celebrities, artists, etc.
    Laura Kolbe
, PhD, is employed as an assistant to the President’s wife Eeva Ahtisaari. Kolbe is also a specialist in university history. “Inviting someone to represent the students has been a tradition since the 50s… But I wouldn’t read too much into not being invited.”
    The SYL office tried to contact the President’s office to ask whether the invitation had perhaps been lost in the mail. “We cannot give any information about personal invitations. This is the President’s ball and he decides who is to be invited shortly before the event,” was the reply.
    There is speculation that the cancellation could be a response to Marko Ahtisaari‘s cool reception at a student party last year. The Helsinki University Student Association (HYY) hosted an Independence Day Party at the Old Student House, “Vanha”, and the President’s son, Marko Ahtisaari, was guest speaker. The younger Ahtisaari had just finished his term in the civil service, having chosen to forego the required year of military service in Finland.When he spoke at the party about tolerance, several students were irked that a conscientious objector was chosen to speak on Independence Day. Some walked out in protest and the media painted the event as a catastrophe. HYY’s Chief Secretary Janne Laine was quoted in the tabloid paper Ilta-Sanomat as saying: “On Independence Day we celebrate Finland and we cherish the honor of our war veterans.” Laine found the choice of Ahtisaari as a speaker for the event “tasteless.”

The Incomprehensible World Of Technical Prose

Students of literature at the University of Helsinki recently had an article on Texts That Are Written Badly On Purpose in their interest group magazine, Teema. The article took memorable examples from several of the course textbooks. It is indicative of a trend in modern writing that is worrisome: using prolific, over-the-top technical “prose” to make an impression when writing a text, losing comprehension and accessibility in the process.
    A good example is feminist philosopher Judith Butler, winner of 1998’s Bad Writing Contest sponsored annually by the Philosophy&Literature periodical. An example of her text follows:
    “The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.”
    This kind of text is not written to be understood, but to make an impression, to make the reader feel inadequate, says Dennis Dutton, administrator of the P&L contest. Be this as it may, the fact is that is it effective. Butler and her fellow master of incomprehensibility, Fredric Jameson, are widely read. Last year, Ylioppilaslehti featured an article by Sami Rainisto describing how he passed several tests in introductory courses without studying at all, filling in superficial, scientific-sounding answers to the questions.
    It is up to the researchers themselves to determine which texts filled with jargon-filled, run-on sentences and impressionist methods are to be taken seriously and which aren’t. Struggling to understand badly written text makes it much more difficult to study and discuss things constructively. Perhaps university writing courses should save some time and acknowledge this trend. The syllabus could include such lecture topics as ‘test-answering jargon’ and ‘showy scientific slang’, not to mention ‘tactical fuzziness in text’ and, of course, ‘snowing the reader’.

7th Heaven Is Year Round Film Festival

“We wanted to bring alternative films to Helsinki and present them in new places, outside of the traditional downtown theaters. I tried to arrange showings in the botanical gardens, but that didn’t quite work out,” says Leena Louhivuori, Festival Director of Finland’s latest film festival, 7th Heaven.
    7th Heaven is different from Finland’s other, well-established film festivals because it will offer a string of over 100 films throughout the coming year, showing during the last weekend of each month. The venues for showing are also unusual, spread into the suburbs.
    The festival will focus on European films of the late 90s. The Nordic countries are represented by new impressive films for children and young adults. Italian films from Nanni Moret and Giuseppe Tornatore are hugely popular in continental Europe. The British comedy East is East is one of the festival’s most eagerly awaited entries and a documentary from Austria’s Michael Glawokker offers an interesting, true-life challenge. A Film and Philosophy lecture course will run at the museum Kiasma during the festival.

by Pamela Kaskinen