"This blog is not necessarily for lovers of art, it includes a variety of topics and whatever. I'm a painter who likes to know what's really going on in the world today. So you might find anything from Shamrocks to Salmiakki mentioned here on my blog. There will of course be some boring, factual and informational posts, but I'll keep them to a minimum, I promise!

And I might get a bit nostalgic now and then.

So you have been warned!"

- Alan Hogan

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Magenta in March!

While the colour green may get a mention here in Finland during the month of March, the colour 'Magenta' may also feature prominently in the news. As myself and many other people prepare for the 'greening' of St.Patrick's Day here in Finland next month a band called 'Magenta Skycode' bring their mellow sounds on tour around the country.

'Magenta Skycode' are a Finnish band based in the city of Turku, 150km west of Helsinki. Their music is a sublime mix of easy tones and pleasant melodies. Think of bands such as Iceland's 'Sigur Rós' and Irish band 'God is an Astronaut' and you will be in the right ballpark. This music drags you in hypnotically and gradually grabs your full attention before you decide to listen to it over and over again. 

The band recently received accolades from the media and press in Finland after their album entitled 'Relief' (shown below) won the 'Best Alternative/Indie album' award at the Emma-Gaala music awards.

Magenta Skycode - Relief

'Magenta Skycode' are on tour in Finland during March and April 2011, playing at venues listed here. Here's a clip of the band live in Tampere from October 2010.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

The Unexpected Rose!

As most of us are aware today is St. Valentine's Day, and I thought I'd just write a few words about my thoughts on the matter. First of all I'll get the history lesson out of the way by just leaving a link on Saint Valentine. Any curiosities can be answered at this link. I suppose like anything related to religion and history, there's a bit of mystery and confusion of facts associated around this Saint, but all I can say is that I do know where the Relics of Saint Valentine are situated. That's an easy one, they're in my hometown of Dublin at Whitefriar Street Church. .......and if it's in Dublin it must be the real thing!

I always remember this because I used to walk past Whitefriar Street church regularly on my way to work while living in Dublin a few years ago. It was always full of tourists around this time of year, and every St.Valentine's Day they still hold a special Mass to celebrate the saint and all those who are in love in the world.

I remember being back in school and some of my classmates coming in on Valentine's Day bragging about how many Valentine's Day-cards they received in the post that day. It was normal to receive maybe two or three cards, but there were always a few boys who got a lot more. I am talking about double-figures here, and they often brought the cards in to prove it too!  I found this a little worrying as I went to an all-boy school, and I couldn't understand how any of these guys had the time to meet up with so many girls between sports and homework. Like myself, most of my close friends were struggling to find one steady girlfriend during the year, so the arrival of just one Valentine's card was a welcomed bonus. 

Valentine Cards don't have to cost much in these hard times, and after all, it's the thought that counts. Now if only they had these budget cards when I was back in school!

After the usual early stage of sending cards, a guy tends to move on to the more hardcore Valentine presents such as chocolates or flowers. Sometimes, budget prevailing, a trip to a fancy restaurant is the order of the day. Traditionally it is not unlike a guy to totally forget about Valentine's Day, or so I've been led to believe from all the female stories I heard and read about. Maybe it's the truth or maybe it's an urban legend, who knows!

This leads me on to another story, a weird one.  
It was Valentine's Day, shortly after I first came to live in Finland. I was sitting in my house having a cup of coffee when I had a visit from some of my wife's relatives. As I welcomed and greeted them into our home her uncle walked slowly over to me and handed me a big red rose. I immediately called my better half and  handed it to her. She then explained that it was actually for me. I stopped and stared in confusion at her for a minute before turning around to thank her uncle for the nice 'flower'. I had to explain that it is unusal for an Irish guy to receive flowers of any kind at any time, least of all on Valentine's Day. Well, unless he was gay perhaps, then it would look okay I suppose.  I continued at this stage to be confused and cautious. I wanted to know what this was all about. 
After several explanations everything was crystal clear. It turns out that the celebration of St.Valentine's Day isn't just reserved for lovers in Finland. This special day is called "Ystävänpäivä" which translates as "Friends Day", and it is not only a day of romance but a day to celebrate friendships, which I reckon is okay. And this totally explains why my wife's uncle gave me a present. Although I still find receiving flowers from another guy a bit on the weird side! Apparently when young folk graduate from college over here in Finland, they are each presented with a special white cap and a rose. Even the boys get a rose. So it's not such a big deal!

Have a happy St.Valentine's Day wherever you may be.
And as they say here in Finland on "Ystävänpäivä" or "Friends Day",

"Hyvää Ystävänpäivää!"

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- Alan


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Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Dead Poet's Breakfast!

The 5th of February is known as Runeberg's Day in Finland, named after Finland's national poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg who was born in the town of Jacobstad, Finland on this date 1804.

'Runeberg's most famous work is Fänrik Ståls sägner (The Tales of Ensign Stål, Vänrikki Stoolin tarinat in Finnish) written between 1848 and 1860. It is considered the greatest Finnish epic poem outside the native Kalevala tradition and contains tales of the Swedish War of 1808-09 with Russia. In the war, Sweden ignominiously lost Finland, which became a Grand Duchy in the Russian empire. The poem, which is composed episodically, emphasizes the common humanity of all sides in the conflict, while principally lauding the heroism of the Finns. The first poem "Vårt land" (Our Land, Maamme in Finnish) became the Finnish National Anthem. Runeberg is celebrated on 5 February each year.'
- taken from Wikipedia

While the National anthem of Finland is sung in the Finnish language by the majority of people over here, it is also sung in swedish with the same passion and pride by a part of the Finnish population living in the west and south of Finland. In my opinion there is something very special and respectful for the people of Finland to have their anthem in both languages.


And it is also on this day Feb 5th every year that a certain cake named 
Runeberg's torte (Finnish: Runebergintorttu; Swedish: Runebergstårta) is eaten all over in Finnish homes to celebrate this great national poet. The story goes that the poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg enjoyed a torte with some brandy punsch for his breakfast every morning.

And not wanting to be disrespectful, I am only too happy to carry on this good tradition in my own home today. A little too late for breakfast, I will be eating one of these two little beauties here with a nice cup of tea later on this evening.

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The Art Garage, Finland

The Art Garage, Finland
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