expanding the parameters of finnishness

Archive for August, 2006

Check out this great FinnCan band!

Posted by Markus Raty on August 31, 2006

Laura Repo getting ready to heat up Mitzi’s Sister

Okay, this post I’m super pumped about. One of Toronto’s top folk musicians just happens to also be half-Finn. Although Laura Repo has been touring these here parts for some time now, I really just discovered her music at the most recent FinnPower event in North Toronto in April where she performed a few magical pieces (including a masterful rendition of J.Karjalainen’s Kolme Cowboyta).

Repo’s souldful blend of bluesy folk rock with twangs of country sweeps you to another place and another time, away from the constant commotion of Everyday. She is a real treat to listen to and to watch.

And did I mention she’s a Finn-Canuck?

 Repo will be taking the stage at Mitzi’s Sister at 1554 Queen St. West next Tuesday, September 5th @ 9:30pm.

She will be followed on stage by “country swing-a-billy” band Whoa Nellie whose singer Vera Colley is also half-Finnish!

This event is marked Highly Recommended on the ol’ finnophile Scale of Guaranteed Good Times. Check it out..and see you there!


Posted in Local Events, Music, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

The Finnish SISU needs you!

Posted by Markus Raty on August 30, 2006

Finnish hockey team looking for elite players for CMHL tournament


Last year the inaugural championship tournament of the Canadian Multicultural Hockey League took place in Toronto. It featured sixteen teams of various etnicities battle it out for three days for the Canadian Cup. The Irish Shamrocks, loaded with ex-NHL and other pro and junior-level talent, beat a skilled but undermanned First Nations Thunderbirds squad for the title. The tournament proved to be a great success (with the trophy and jerseys on display in the Hockey Hall of Fame) and even greater expectations await this year’s tournament.

The Finnish SISU, the first team to sign on in the new league, has its work cut out for it. After an impressive debut that saw them finally bow out to the Korean Tigers in the consolation semi-finals, the SISU look to add depth to their roster for the coming season. Read the rest of this entry »

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it ain’t all good news from Finland..

Posted by Markus Raty on August 30, 2006

Finnish shot-putter tests positive for testosterone

Finnish national shot-putting champion Ville Tiisanoja has tested positive for testosterone and will be stripped of his gold medal. Read more on the story here. What is refreshing about this case – amongst the numbing number of sports druggie busts we hear about these days – is Tiisanoja’s candidness once busted. Unlike FLoyd Landis and Justin Gatlin and Marion Jones, just to name a few, Tiisanoja didn’t blame it on booze or special cream the trainer rubbed on his legs or any other cockamamie excuse. He took the heat, admitted to looking for an edge and regretted it.

While even the odd Finn may cheat, (who knew?) it is somewhat comforting that there is still some level of integrity maintained in the process. Or is it?

Posted in Other Sports, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Helsinki Fashion

Posted by Markus Raty on August 28, 2006

Thanks to a post from W. Yrjölä, we now have a window on current fashion trends in Helsinki. I know Finland has recently (last decade) made a splash on the world fashion scene, and many of the country’s young designers are red-hot worldwide but this here is the real deal from the streets. Be forewarned, some of the pictures are graphic. Ok, not graphic but at least mildly disturbing. Then again, one man’s costume is another man’s fashion. And that’s cool. Check it out: hel-looks

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Finnish flavour at TIFF

Posted by Markus Raty on August 28, 2006

Finn films at Toronto International Film Festival

Although I am not what you would call a “movie buff”, I do recognize and appreciate that intelligent international films play an important role in developing cultural awareness and contribute to public discourse on a nation’s place in society, insofar as artistic and creative output is concerned. (run-on sentence?)

We (the collective of at least moderately interested movie-goers) have come to expect some Finnish flavour at Toronto’s world-reknowned film festival. Last year it was Mother of Mine by Klaus Haro, which was the runner-up for the audience-voted favourite film prize. A couple of years ago Aki Kaurismaki’s The Man Without a Past stirred theatre crowds with its wrenching tale. And if I was a real buff I’m sure I could come up with a few others from years past.

This year the film festival will feature three (at least partially) Finnish works. Jade Warrior, a Finnish-Chinese co-production, will make its World Premiere, The Zone of Total Eclipse by Mika Taanila, part of Wavelengths 5 and also a World Premiere and Aki Kaurismaki’s most recent work, Lights in the Dusk.

Jade Warrior in particular seems to be garnering a lot of pre-festival pub and is hotly anticipated. The film combines Chinese and Finnish mythologies and travels in time from ancient China to modern-day Finland. Sounds interesting..

I’ll post more info as I come across it but check out the Finnish Film Foundation and the festival website for more info. Of course, as of right now the Finnish Film Foundation doesnt have any info on the Kaurismaki and China-FInn films..figures. The festival is still over a week away, who would want to know now anyway?

Tickets go on sale soon and usually move fast so get on your horses! 

Posted in Film, Local Events, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Markus Raty on August 24, 2006

aka: Port Arthur, Thunder Bay, Little Finland

First of all, greetings to all finnophilers from Thunder Bay’s Finns; or at least those whom I came into contact with. They would like you to know that their little slice of Finland in Canada is alive and thriving and invite you for a visit.

I would like to take this opportunity to share with you my take on this most eccentric of cultural phenomenoms.

Thunder Bay’s Finnish population began to grow in earnest around the turn of the 20th century as thousands of Finns in search of work settled in the Port Arthur area, soon finding work as loggers. Soon (1931) over 15% of the city’s population were Finnish immigrants and many institutions that we are still familiar with today (Hoito, Canadan Uutiset, succeeded by the Canadan Sanomat) were already in their third decade of operation.

Today, Thunder Bay is home to approximately 12,000 people of Finnish origin, comprising over 10% of its total population. This concentration is borne out by the aging but still grand Little Finland area of the city, whose epicentre is at Bay and Algoma. There, you will find all manner of Finnish shops, restaurants and cultural institutions all of which have benefited from the recent facelift the area has received.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Thunder Bay, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Finland vs. Canada

Posted by Markus Raty on August 19, 2006

Howdy all! Back from a week-long jaunt in Tunder Bay, Ontario. That’s where the Hilden Clan (Mom’s an ex-Hilden) and Kangas Clan have resided since the early 60s – which I guess by extension makes me a TunderBayer. Center of the non-Finnish Finnish universe. But I digress..more on this later.

THANKS to a fellow finnophiler, DJ Skip, we can all rise up early tomorrow morning to watch our (Canadian) under-20 ladies face-off against our (Finnish) under-20 lasses in soccer. The game will be televised live on Rogers Sportsnet at 8am Sunday!

Posted in Other Sports, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

sauna exists, therefore i am

Posted by Markus Raty on August 8, 2006

One of the great mysteries in life is why so few Canadians have adopted the sauna culture at their cottages. Of the fifteen or so pals of mine who have family cottages, only ours is sauna-equipped. It seems like such a no-brainer; extends the season, mitigates the weather, cleanses the body and soul..the list goes on.

This past weekend I had the good fortune of being ‘up north’ at our Parry Sound cottage. As it is water-access only we dont often venture too far while up there. This time however, I had been invited to the Glass (Paula and Samantha) cottage over on Porno Järvi (youll get it shortly). Turns out that some 19km east on 124, just past Waubamik, there lies a small lake known to some as Vowel Lake and to others as Porno Järvi. A healthy mix of Finns and Canadians have been cottaging here since the early 1900’s and as the Finns are wont to do, they cottage naked. Ok, at least they sauna naked..for the most part. Hence the moniker (which means Porno Lake) given the lake by the Canadians.

In any case, in my short afternoon there, I found myself immersed 
amongst a gaggle of Finns and managed to sample four delicious saunas, enjoying a hearty löyly in each of them. Although not as lively a bunch as they were in the 60s and 70s, this gang, ranging in age from oh 6 or 7 all the way up to somewhere in the 60s put on a clinic of cottaging camaraderie. And how.

Over the years not only have they managed to keep their community tight-knit, they have inculcated the Canadians on the lake in our famed sauna culture. Almost every non-Finn cottage on the lake had a sauna perched on shore, often built by one of the Finns themselves! After saunas and a cold beverage or two I reluctantly made my way back to our slice of Finland some 19 km westward.

But yet another example of random Finnishness sprouting up in this great country of ours.

Spending time in saunas of all shapes and sizes, and in our humble Parry Sound sauna in particular, is one of my lifelong passions. Cliche, you might say, but I jest not nor do I hyperbolize. How saunaing and the sauna culture shapes who we are both physically and mentally is one of the subjects I hold nearest to my heart. Be forewarned.

Posted in sauna, Uncategorized | 21 Comments »

the dudesons

Posted by Markus Raty on August 3, 2006

And now for something from the lighter side… 

Those of you who know me personally will be able to directly relate to this post. Growing up (which it seems i’m still in the midst of doing) I had a penchant for performing silly stunts, often inflicting copious amounts of pain and suffering upon myself. The reason you ask? How does the saying go; for shits and giggles I suppose. To this day I am still a bit of an adreneline junkie and get many of my kicks jumping off cliffs, climbing rock faces and hurling myself into dense snow-covered forests with a wooden board attached to my feet.

With this bit of background (merely a thin slice of the whole) you will appreciate the glee I felt when I stumbled across The Dudesons late one night a couple of weeks ago while watching The Best Damn Sports Show Period. Think Jackass on steroids with heavy Finnish accents. Now some will say Jackass came first but these guys have been performing in Finland for over 10 years and have now hit the main stage. In any case, check them out for yourself:

p.s. to answer one of the Q’s in the comments section, they have “I Love Suomi” tshirts for sale on the site…albeit overpriced. But talk to Lily, she’ll design ’em for all of us.

Posted in Dem Wacky Finns, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

our extended finnish family

Posted by Markus Raty on August 2, 2006

A little more about finnophile and Finnishness 

So we are off with a bang. Questions being answered, new threads suggested and a general conviviality that bodes for a great intersection of cultural exchange.

Last night I went out for a pop with a fellow Finn-Canuck friend of mine and we found ourselves in Little Italy discussing Finnishness from the Canadian perspective (amongst other salacious topics). The overarching theme of the conversation was a reflection on how blessed we are to have this ‘extended Finnish family’, both locally here in Toronto and indeed around the world. In part because there are so few of us, and because Finnishness runs so deep, we always seem to have an unspoken connection amongst our merry band. Because we innately understand eachother on some level at least, the usual pleasantries can be disposed of and what we’re left with is a real steep curve on the path to new friendships. I think it rocks. And it is that desire to connect people and ideas that has manifested itself here as finnophile.

Maybe a bit more about what finnophile strives to be then.  As a junkie of all things Finnish, I would like to see this become a forum for the exchange of ideas, thoughts, newsbytes, questions, leads, resources and other random ephemera as it relates to Finland, Finnishness and Finnish-Canadiana. In short, and to grudgingly use a Swedish term, a regular smorgasbord of Finnishness.

The way I see it, until recently, Finland has been given the short shrift from the North American public (and media) specifically. Finnishness has been cast a narrow net and most of my friends, colleagues and acquaintances have been horribly under-served in their Finnish education. Besides, who is to say what Finnishness really is anyway? In my books its still up for definition. So let’s define away. Without being definitive of course.

Although, this blog will sometimes posit and pontificate on matters of serious nature, mostly it will look to be fun and irreverent, as well as educational…with a caveat. I get to lead the class. You see, through this looking glass anyway, Finland and Finnishness is almost beyond definition insofar as it spans the spectrum of social mores and expectations.

You have the prototypical shy Finnish male whose idea of communicating means looking at your shoes instead of his own, and then you have the Dudesons, four Finnish alpha males who revel in the spotlight and will do anything..anything to garner a laugh..(you have to read the next post!). To me, both these groups of people are quintessentially Finnish which leads us to this wonderful dichotomy. It’s absolutely fascinating and so let’s explore just what makes these crazy Finns crazy Finns (present company included)

This could be fun.

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