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George Orwell’s advice that writers “kill their darlings” to keep their writing fresh and honest applies doubly to advertising copywriters. This week, the US Senate, which will do just about anything to avoid dealing with serious matters at hand, like say, education, healthcare, or, I dunno, that Iraq thingy, was given nearly an entire day of free-for-all fun with MoveOn.org’s ad in the New York Times “General Petraeus or General Betray Us?, which in the end resulted in a non-binding resolution, introduced by class clown John Cornyn, condemning the ad. Good job, guys. Still, the real bad guy here was the copywriter. In his brief for the ad, he was undoubtedly told to keep hitting the “betrayal of trust” meme. Not surprisingly, two or three neuron bursts later, the headline had written itself. Brilliant! At that point, experience should have told the copywriter it was time to push “delete” and kill that darling. It wasn’t even a cheap pun; that would have simply read “General Betray-Us?” Instead, it was a labored pun.

No mo’ Shillin’ fo’ da Koalishun of da Willin’

Like Gen. William C. Westmoreland , who debased himself to prop up Nixon’s policy 40 years earlier, Petraeus is smart military confused as to where his loyalties belong. He understands he’s being sacrificed on the pyre of political expediency by his masters. Perhaps that is why he was honest enough to admit his masters expect to continue the occupation for at least another decade. (Although, I kid you not, there is a strand of conspiracy talk at the moment that Petraeus is being groomed for a 2012 White House run and this has his handlers are royally pissed he’s catching image flack so early on in the product roll-out. There is also the challenge to political copywriters of finding something that rhymes with “ass-kissing chickenshit”).

A Permanent State of War? Now there’s a headline that resurrects the ghost of Trotsky’s permanent revolution.

Besides, the headline could have been treated differently, say, in the form of a question to the General. If we need to spin the win, is it worth it? Or, what is it that 71% of Americans is not getting about this war?  

Or simply use an Army recruiting slogan. “It’s Army Strong, not Army Wrong.”  or “Army Strong … but not for long. Gen. Petraeus please don’t break our Army.”

Or some Dylan, “Let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late.”
On the other hand, Americans love the infantile. Perhaps the next MoveOn.org ad will read: “Hey Cornyn, bite me!”


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Where we live

Note: I know it’s a bit early in the season to write about fall when summer is just around the corner. But it gives you an idea of the landscapes where a handful of people who grew up in Southern Californians now live.



Where happiness lives

No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.William Blake (1757-1827)

Of all the seasons that pass over Finland, possibly fall is the most magical. But what makes it stand out from the others?

Is it the pitch-darkness? Is it the vast universe above and its peppered celestial inhabitants that appear to gaze down on us longer than usual?

Yet again it could be the sound of rustling leaves and rapid breezes that holds on for a moment to trees before losing steam. Are they the moonlight beams that light timid forest paths that lead to places that test your courage?

Or is it the bittersweet combination of homesickness dancing momentarily with merry anticipation before you part for distant lands?

Searching for happiness

For some Finns, autumn is the most mysterious season. If a ghost house comes alive in the evening, all the spirits – imagined and real – appear to awaken from deepest slumber and to the woods during this time of the year.

For me, fall is that time when I fight pitch battles against melancholy with a sword called hope. The battle is waged by visits to the forest, which teems with lingonberries, mushrooms and other delights.

The journeys into the woods can be very spiritual. They can be like brief walks on the avenues of the soul.

If weddings are commonplace in Finland at midsummer, it’s in fall when souls make secret vows and marry other souls in secret weddings under tall shady spruces by rushing, chilly streams playing splashing sounds with stones.

One of the forests I enjoy visiting in fall is near Vanhala, a hamlet made up of a few farmhouses and an elementary school. The village, which is located 15 minutes from Mikkeli, is so small that I once biked through it without noticing it.

img_0265-1.jpgFrom Vanhala there’s a gravel road to a farm owned by a widow called Hongisto, who moved away from there a long time ago. If you stand still at the edge of the forest that hugs her farm and listen closely, you can sometimes hear the woods calling out for you.

The sounds resemble that of swaying trees and rustling leaves. It’s like the sonance of a trickling brook splashing shyly on stones with the difference that the stream comprises of air and caresses trees.

There are also to lure you the autumn colors and heavy doses of melancholy that vanish and appear in the heart.

Finding happiness

I was certain on that late Saturday afternoon that I’d finally succeed after many years at finding where happiness lived.

If mankind has always built roads because nobody believes in isolation, the forest too has many types of paths.

Deep in the woods, I notice a lone bird resting on a branch. Poor bird – I thought – it must have escaped from a farmhouse because toucans only live in the tropics.

“If you move fast and long enough you’ll be in different lands,” the bird said in half-toucan, half- human. “In a way I envy stones because they always know where their home is. They don’t move.”

“Don’t look surprised,” it continues. “There are other creatures from distant lands that inhabit these forests. Aren’t you from faraway as well?

I followed the black bird with the brightly colored bill deeper in the woods.

The scenery looked so familiar but then it started to change. A pine tree I passed had the cones pointing towards the sky and there was a spring that had the following sign: “Drink here and quench your thirst for dreams.”

There was also a modest shack that looked like a country store but only sold by the pound hugs, kisses and warm caresses.

A woman soon appeared before me just when I noticed the bird had vanished. The woman was blessed with so much beauty that it would take thousands of rainbows arched simultaneously in the sky to even come close to her loveliness.

I looked straight in her captivating eyes, which are like breathtaking views from space to Earth.

“So what brings you here?” she asks without malice.

“I’m searching for happiness. Can you help me find it?”

Silence and then an answer that twirls to the soft moist ground as a leaf that parted from a branch.

“It’s useless for you to soar high enough by yourself… But with the autumn woods of Finland we’ll help you discover that contentedness is right here and now.”

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Finland is a remarkable place populated by interesting people. With the generation and analysis of news and socially useful information moving to more collaborative fora, we decided to set up a blog that comments on public discussion locally and internationally. Contemplated categories are likely to fall broadly into categories such as journalism, law, visual arts, music, anthropology, psychology, economics or politics. We should have five or six regular posters, all with stong publishing records. Word Press is a far cry from the days when I struggled with photosetting machines. Hopefully this blog offers responsible commentary that brings fresh perspective to neglected topics.

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Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

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