laupäev, jaanuar 21, 2006

Meet the Rüütels

Well the word is out, all around the world. And somewhere in the frigid interior of Eestimaa two little girls named Helena and Maria are in big, big trouble.

The lurid details from Kommersant -

Estonian television has shown wild parties at Kadriorg, the presidential palace, hosted by the President Arnold Ruutel's granddaughters, Helena, 15, and Maria, 13. The disclosure was made on Eyewitness, one of Estonia's most popular prime-time television programs. An anonymous participant in the events recounted how guests smoked hashish, drink hard liquor and defile national symbols. The events had been going on regularly at least since last October and sometimes accommodated 50 guests.

Yeah, there's also pictures to accompany every thousand words about this not-so-stately affair, like this one.

And yes, there are also more lurid details, from Ely Times -

The photographs include one of a boy leaving a shower room, naked except for a belt with a piece of cloth hanging from it. The door to the room is held open by a clothed young woman.

"He was not completely naked," said presidential spokeswoman Kaidi Aher. "And it was a boy not a girl. That (a naked girl) would be completely different."

There's also some talk of how this could impact the next presidential election scheduled for this year. It's still unclear whether or not the 77-year-old Rüütel will seek another term, but what's sadder still is that this may not effect it.
That's because in Estonia, the people don't directly elect the president.

From Wikipedia -

The President elected by Parliament (Riigikogu) for a five-year term; if he or she does not secure two-thirds of the votes after three rounds of balloting, then an electoral assembly (made up of Parliament plus members of local governments) elects the president, choosing between the two candidates with the largest percentage of votes.

So it's a "back room" kind of thing. Contrast that with neighboring Finland where they had a real election that led to a run-off between Tarja Halonen and Sauli Niinistö.

They are having a real election over there and yet in Estonia, the tangibility of the presidential election, scheduled for this year, seems shrouded in internal politics. Will the naked parties at Kadriorg have any affect on who chooses the president in 2006?

As a side note I would like to add that when I was 15 I wasn't invited to any naked parties, and if I had been, they wouldn't have been at a presidential residence. So yes, I'm slightly jealous.

kolmapäev, jaanuar 18, 2006

Nazis, Commies, Russkies, Paranoia, and Noor Eesti

God, can one's stomach ever be anxious enough when reading news about Estonia? Well the sad thing there is such little news, and what news there is often comes from a Russian viewpoint. Paul Goble lives in Estonia and probably could produce volumes of insightful news on Estonia, but he spends his time digging through local Russian newspapers and shining a light on what is going on in that enormously confusing country. The Baltic Times only comes out once a week and they are limited by space - one newspaper for three countries - plus it has a business angle, which doesn't feed my political jones, and moreover, it's based in Latvia and has a sort of Latvian outlook on things - that is to say it's, you know, more emotional than an Estonian-based newspaper would be. It actually has a pulse ;)

And so I sadly sniff through the Russian sources, yawning through another Pravda editorial that accuses the Baltics of "historical revisionism." Have you ever read an Estonian history book from the Soviet era? It's a joke. The 1918-1940 period is summed up in about three sentences, mostly aimed at demonizing the Estonian fascist dictator Konstantin Päts (who has been discussed on this board). But go on, read some Pravda. It's informative...

Let us however delve into the history of those four years between 1941 and 1945, when these countries were liberated from the Fascist yolk of Hitler's forces by the Soviet Union (or would they prefer to claim they were invaded a second time and that they preferred Hitler's Nazis?)

"Liberated from the Facist yoke?" Will this shit ever end? I mean you know the writer didn't fight in World War II. He's probably as clueless about his history as the next guy. And the guys that are leftover from that era were the, pardon the expression, "tools of the decade." They were the cannon fodder; the 17-year-old soldiers sent to kill for their intellectual superiors who have long since passed. And it's like the little boys of the '50s will never stop arguing over the deeds of their fathers. Whatever.

Then there's that other menace, gays. According to UK Gay News (what, you've never heard of UK Gay News?) a Tallinn City Counselor wore a "I Hate Gays" t-shirt.

Tarmo Kruusimägi, a member of the Tallinn City Council’s Committee on Consumers’ Rights and Protection of Children, who’s artistic nickname is ‘Street Cleaner’ has appeared on a stage in a t-shirt with wording “I hate gays”, reports.

He has had the t-shirt for couple of years, he said.

Stop the presses - one guy in Estonia is an idiot! And he's a politician (go figure).

In more bad news, according to Regnum Viido Polikarpus, the founder of Global Estonian magazine, is allegedly worried about the possibility that more naturalized Russians in Estonia will vote for the Center Party, and I guess the logic follows that Center Party founder Edgar Savisaar will then invite Russia's army of 17-year-old scared shitless kids to defend its ports from Finnish tourists.

Or at least, that's what said Polikarpus said. But at least he got called a "political expert." And if you are in Tallinn stop by Eesti Maja for some liha ja kartulid. Way to go Viido! But read on...

Polikarpus reminds that 1/3 of the Estonian population are Russians and that during the last municipal elections 2005 even Estonians voted for the Centrists, a party cooperating with the United Russia.

Well first off, Russians are a quarter of the population there, not a third, overestimators. Second, if you are going to publish news in English, you better start studying. These guys just can't figure out their articles, and if you're going to BS the English speaking audience, you need your articles, guys.

Well anyway, in light of the less-than-inspiring news I have decided to take up reading the poetry of Noor Eesti, the Estonian literary movement from the first decades of the 20th century that can even inspire people that don't know the language that well.

Tooling around the Internet, I found this great page with links to the Noor Eesti writers and poets and examples of their work. I chose to read a poem by Marta Lepp because Marta is my daughter's name. According to Google, Marta Lepp was born in 1883 and passed on in 1940. So she's dead. But her poetry lives on. And it's a much better read than any of the news today. If Estonia excels in any department outside of cross country skiing, it's in poetry. All the Estonian poets I have read - especially Hando Runnel - have shown an immediately recognizable talent for sound and language.

And so I leave you with this poem, which I am told is about weaving, jail, bad weather, boredom, and maybe something else.

Vurr, vurr…vurr, vurr…

Udu, muda…muda, udu…
Voki vurrab.
Igav on mu vaikne kodu
Südant murrab.

Vurr, vurr…vurr, vurr…
Kallim sõber kaugel trelli-talus
Ihkab päikest
Hämarikus õhkab süda valus,
Ootab valgust.

Vurr, vurr…vurr, vurr…
Õues igavus ja niiskus,
Puude oksad udu-piiskas

neljapäev, jaanuar 05, 2006

Verivorstid ... and Falck

Ahh, another Christmas season come and passed. Now we are still standing near the door frame of the new year which could make us rich in emotional conquest or poor in acceptance of our mortal limitations.

One of the preoccupations of this season in America, Epp's third Christmas here, has been finding her the necessary blood sausage to satiate her need for something festive. Blood sausages, or verivorstid, are the main course at most Estonian Christmas Eve dinners, and they are basically blood, barley, and leftover animal parts mixed into an intestine and served with a little jam. Like any food, if you bake it enough and add enough salt (or jam) it tastes Ok, and it sure beats Danish medister (a nasty sausage I wound up consuming) and Dutch Filet Americain (which has nothing to do with America and is in fact, seasoned raw meat).

And so, to make my Eesti Naine comfy in our gluttonous homeland where she regularly is forced to consume large quantities of olive oil and garlic, I made sure I picked up $28 worth of blood sausage at the Estonian House on 34th Street. I asked the Finnish lady selling them why they were so expensive and she just whispered "because they are so good." R-i-i-ight.

Anyway those were gone the next day. We (meaning my wife) ate them all. They were good too, just as the Finnish lady had promised. But in an effort to make our Eesti Naine feel more at home my mother attempted to procure some of the mysterious sausages from a German deli on Long Island. I was then asked what kind she prefered - "rice or oats" - "snouts or no snouts." I chose oats and no snouts. The thought of biting into a sausage with a nostril in it was a bit much. It could have even spoiled Christmas!

But when she cooked them up they weren't that good. Irish blood sausages. It figures that they would suck, given the reputation of Irish food. Have you ever seen an "Irish breakfast"? Runny eggs, Heniz baked beans strait out of the can, some fatty bacon, and soggy toast. And murky tea. Luck of the Irish.

Why is it that people from rainy cand cold climates eat gross stuff? The Inuit eat raw seal blubber, the Icelanders fermented whale meat, the Scots have their haggis, and the Estonians, well, they have their jellied sült, salt porridge, and herring. Yum yum. I hate to say it, but Greek food is much better. Turkish food? Better. Indian food? Way better.

Now on to Falck. Did it ever freak you out that much of the security in Estonia is handled by faceless guards wearing uniforms with the name Falck on it that are wholly private, ie. not really accountable to the government? I know that Estonia is supposedly the right-wingers' flat tax paradise, but is a private police force part of that ideal? Falck is everywhere in Tallinn, so common they are easily confused with the regular police. But there's more...As I did not know until a few minutes ago, Falck is actually a Danish company. Here read for yourself:

Falck is a Nordic-based organisation that provides assistance, rescue, healthcare and training to the public sector, private members, business subscribers, insurance companies, pension companies and international clients. The company ambition over the next few years is to develop Falck into a pan-European organisation, and to achieve global status in certain sectors.

One day in South Tallinn we were stopped by Falck and taken off the bus we were traveling on for not having punched tickets. Then we were loaded into a van near the bus stop where we were forced to endure about half an hour of verbal barrage from Sirje, the crazy Falck "officer" who said she had seen Epp before and that she was lying to her that she hadn't. (It was totally nuts..surreal!). I personally received a write-up because I refused to sign any paper they gave me because I didn't know what my "charge" was (I get really legalistic and can be a real asshole when I am in trouble with the law). In the end I wrote a nasty letter to the organization about the employees' behavior, and got off free, but - how sketchy is that? Sure Falck didn't beat me up and leave me in a ditch, but, having been to Mexico where the police drive around in the back of flat bed trucks with machine guns and beat the hell out of people they don't like - you've got to wonder, what can Falck get away with? The Estonian police department is under regular press scrutiny - I mean police chief Robert Antropov had to step down because he improperly drove his parents around in a police vehicle - but who is looking after the mysterious, multinational police force Falck? I'd just like to know...