A Citizen’s view: Finland applying for NATO and historical relations with Russia

While this blog has always been intended to comment on things of design of pop-culture on the side of the customer, I do feel a personal need to comment on the current world situation with Finland, Russia and NATO from a personal perspective. While at this point it is rather a moot point to guess whether or not Finland will join NATO, as the process has begun and Turkey’s Erdogan is using it as leverage to try to root Kurds and his political targets with a genocidal passion. If you want the answer to the question Should Finland join NATO? the answer would be We should’ve joined NATO twenty years ago. Naturally, the issue is somewhat complicated and directly saying joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is very much populist politics, even though it most likely would raise the probability of keeping Russia from trying to invade Finland yet again.

Now, I feel a need to pre-emptively mention that while I speak of Russia in this post, the meaning is for its government or the entity known as Russia. A person can not choose the country they are born in, and I don’t have anything against the common Russian people. Above all, in matters like this, I hope their government would treat them better and improve their nation. The 20 million Russians living below the poverty line should their priority.

Finland’s history is that of three countries, roughly speaking. Finland did exist in its own form when Finno-Ugric tribes extended their power from what is currently Sweden to the Ural mountains. During the early eleventh century, there were few crusades to Finland, but while Dane’s attempt was lacklustre, the Swedish crusades over a few centuries managed to quell down the opposition, and ultimately Finland became part of the Swedish Kingdom. The treatment of course was what you would expect, as the Finish people were treated more or less as uneducated peasants while the Swedes were the higher class people. Nevertheless, the Swedish Empire was a strong contender on the stage of world politics for a long time. While this improved the Finnish living standards as well, it was also at the expense of the culture. Even nowadays there is a class divide between Finnish and Swedish, and Swedish is the second national language.

The Great Northern War saw Sweden and Russia waging war over the Baltic. The Russian forces had taken over the Finnish landscape in 1713, but the occupation never saw proper attempts at taking the Swedish coast. The occupation was brutal and harsh, and the time between 1713-1721 is known as the Great Wrath; Russians plundered and raped all the while demanding the peasants to pay contributions for the occupation. Lutheran churches were looted and Russians used scorched earth tactics to keep the Swedish from reoccupying. Enslaved Finnish counted in the hundreds of thousands. Massacres were common, with Hailuoto Island being one of the worst examples, where cossacks hacked 800 people with axes. Poorer people led to the forests to escape the occupational forces, something that would stick to the cultural mind and would bite the Russians back during the Second World War. Not that the Swedes were any gentler. The atrocities were at their worst when Gustaf Otto Douglas, a defected Swedish count, was leading the occupational forces. However, it wouldn’t be until the Finnish War in the early 1800s that Alexander I would take Finland away from Sweden and establish the Grand Duchy of Finland under Russian rule.

If for a moment you saw some similarity with the actions Russians have taken in Ukraine above, that is because Russian methods of waging war and destroying others haven’t changed ever since the Mongols invaded Kievan Rus in the thirteenth century. This invasion effectively created the basis, where all future Russian nations would find a cultural scar in. Without this invasion, Kievan Rus might’ve developed into a more benign entity, but what is left of it in modern Russian culture is a heavy distrust towards other nations out of fear of being invaded, systematic corruption through all possible means, and trust in one true leader who would protect the people with his inner circle. There are tons, but there are just to name a few and maybe the most relevant.

Even as a grand duchy, Finland’s independence varied, but at least the peasants’ situation was always better than the Russian serfs’. While the old Swedish laws were upheld, the czar was the ruler without a peer. This era, before Finnish independence, would be the basis where the Finnish would find their place as the in-between country and gain cultural skills on how to handle Russians. Part of this was based on the Swedish population’s rouse toward the Finnish language and independence, though even then it was more about returning to glory than giving Finland its own autonomy from other nations. The national literature revolution in the 1830s would kick up the Fennoman movement, which would drive Finnish independence and identity up until our declaration of independence in 1917. Because of the tensions between three nationalities, the Swedes in Finland, the Finnish and the Russians, the population of Finland were more educated than their contemporaries in the Baltics, the Finns were able to manoeuvre through the Russification that tzars Alexander III and Nicholas II were driving from 1881 up until 1917.

Russification of Finland, known as Times of Oppression locally, stemmed from Russia seeing Finland as a conquered territory, full of lesser people that Russia must assimilate and eradicate Finnish national identity in order to protect that part of their nation from Western influences. This attitude has never really changed. An example of this would be A.S. Pushkin’s The Bronze Horseman, where the Finnish are described as poor people of nature, who should forget their old hatred against Russians as only Russians can save these wretched beings. Finland itself is no more than a place to threaten Swedes and cities are built for that end. This belittling of Finland and its population is part of the Russian cultural heritage.

Following the February Revolution in Russia, the Finnish politicians would beeline toward independence. In hindsight, it’s rather comedic that Russians had to put up a second revolution to wash their hands off the first one, but October Revolution was ultimately the one that allowed Finland to full detach itself from Russian rule as the Bolsheviks declared a general right of self-determination for the people of Russia. This was more or less allowed for the Finnish people, as the Bolsheviks fully expected the Socialist revolution to take the world by wildfire and Finland to join the Soviets soon enough. They tried to expedite this by supporting the Reds in the Finnish Civil War. Russia would continue to have its fingers in the internal and global Finnish politics well up until the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Much is said about Finland allying with Germany during the Second World War. However, it was a situation to ally with someone who could help, or be occupied by the Soviet forces and lose independence. Russia would invade Finland in November 1939, using the Shelling of Mainila as an excuse. The shelling was a false-flag operation, where Soviet forces shelled their own nation and claimed Finland as the perpetrator. In reality, no Finnish artillery could’ve had hit the town, as it was out of range. This sort of false flag operation is Russian standard when they want something. In this case, Finland had denied their demands to have Russian military bases on Finnish soil. The Baltic states had accepted this demand, and were fully occupied in 1940, losing their independence. Stalin had high expectations for the campaign and had already established the Finnish Democratic Republic to govern soon to be occupied neighbour. While Finland lost 9% of its land to Russia, the defensive war was a success, and a momentary peace was gained with the Moscow Peace Treaty in 1940. Russia was kicked out of the League of Nations as a result of the war.

The Finnish forces were in dire need to help at that point, and no other nation was willing to offer help but Germany. Continuation War would start in June 1941 as Germany began its invasion of Russia. It wouldn’t be until the 1944’s battles the Finnish troops managed to gain decisive victories against the Soviet invaders. The Vyborg-Petrozavodzk offensive might’ve ended in a stalemate, but Russians had already seen too many of their own soldiers go down. Compared to the other nations within the Soviet sphere of influence, Finland had managed to keep its democratic independence and never allowed the Soviets to occupy the Finnish soil. The Moscow Armistice restored the 1940 treaty, leading Finnish forces to expulse German forces from the nation, which led to numerous conflicts and at least one burned city. Finland did have to cede new parts to the Soviets and pay reparation for the war Russian themselves had started, legalize the Communist Party of Finland as well as ban all parties the Soviets deemed fascist. Russian meddling in Finnish politics would continue. The Communist Party was never declared illegal, despite its still driving agenda that is very much against the interests of the nation.

Finnish neutrality during the Cold War following the Second World War is grossly exaggerated. The Soviet diplomats and politics continued to harass and influence whatever decision Finland was making internally or in regard to foreign policies. While officially the government was neutral, the interests always were to move toward the West and protect the nation from future Russian invasion. This led to the military adopting the phrase The threat comes from the East during military practices, as Finland is not viably threatened by any other nation than Russia. In recent months, both politicians and generals have used this phrase with Russia instead of East in public statements. Despite the friendly ties Finland has had with the Russians, it’s been a delicate act to keep their unwanted influence from Finnish soil for some four hundred years now. This is why the Finno-Soviet treaty of 1948, or the Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance, was signed to keep the Soviets happy but at bay. Numerous voices siding with Russia have declared the Finnish intent to join NATO breaks this agreement, but they never seem to remember the treaty of 1992 with the Russian Federation made the 1948 treaty effectively null.

All this is to say that in the view of Russian culture, President Putin’s words about the good ol’ days of the Russian empire make sense. Ever since the Mongols invaded the Kievan Rus, the cultural mind has been deathly afraid of being invaded again. The unnecessarily cruel nature of Russian warfare stems from these Mongols and has never left their military doctrine. How Russia is waging war in Ukraine is a direct descendant of how Russia has waged war since the thirteenth century. No matter how much the tzars have brought European influences and cultural aspects to Russian soil, Russia is deeply an Asian country. In reality, Europe doesn’t end with the Ural Mountains, it ends where the Russian border is drawn. The culture is Asian, not Western. The Western World has accepted individuals’ right to self govern for better or worse a long time ago and has built trust among its peers. Russia’s cultural landscape does not admit to this. For them, it is their God-given right to fight and protect their own culture at the expense of all others, self-governance be damned. Strategic truth, as in lying, is extensively used to deceive in order to reach personal goals. Everything else can be expended for the Russian state and its people. In this equation, Finland is the buffer zone Russia has used against the Western World. When Finland began talking about joining NATO more openly following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s actions flared up; Russia cuts gas lines to Finland, diplomats put pressure on Finnish parliament members, sly talks about the Russian empire taking what was theirs and all that. It’s Russia talking down to the Finnish people again.

Back when I was in university, I discussed the relationship between Finland and modern Russia with a Russian exchange student. His view was quite telling; Finland is a poor place. It doesn’t even have its own culture or history.

To return to the question if Finland should join NATO for a moment, the question is absurd to me. The population of Finland has been under the threat of Russian invasion ever since Sweden got beaten during the Great Northern War. Russian proverb of The border of Russia is secure only when Russian soldiers occupy both sides of the border is a direct threat. Finland has every right to join whatever alliances they wish if that means securing the sanctity of their nation. To Russians, that often has meant a pre-emptive strike to make the enemy unable to attack. For a more civilized nation that means having a good enough defence to fight such an invader. It is no exaggeration to say Russia only considers itself safe when all possible opposition is crushed. This is, at best, medieval thinking and should have no place in the modern world. Russian propaganda will aim to convince people that Finland and Sweden joining NATO is the result of the Western world, especially the United States, tricking and deceiving Swedes and Finns into joining. The reality is that the Russian invasion of Ukraine and continuing their tradition of brutal and unnecessarily cruel warfare is at fault.

To be more realistic, Russia has been treating Finland as a NATO country for a long time despite also treating the country as a buffer zone. This is due to Finland being a NATO-aligned country. This means cooperation in intelligence and global actions, which naturally Russia deems as a threat. With Russia escalating its nature as a threat toward Europe, nations are justifiably worried about their safety. In a perfect world, Russia wouldn’t be afraid of being invaded and would find no need to invade countries that want to be independent. Russian propaganda and information warfare have a hundred-year history of mixing truths, half-truths and lies in their disinformation campaigns, and we’re seeing it in full action at this very moment. While it also tried to twist and turn the nation’s history toward a rosier view, they can’t really hide from the stripes on their fur.

In Russian, pravda does not mean truth as it would be in English. It’s not the opposite, but something that tries to find a balance and harmony between right and wrong, lie and truth. It’s closer to a white lie, a half-truth you use to get out of difficulties. You see this used far more often than the word istina, which stands for truth as it would in English. However, Russia has three words for lies; Vranjo, Lozh’ and nepravda. This gives a certain insight on the function of the language, and to some extent how people think. This is why foreign diplomats have difficulties in discerning what Russia says on the world stage. Be it Lenin, Stalin or Putin, they’ve all used this sort of strategic truth as a weapon, sometimes directly lying to misdirect their opponents. To put it simply, Russian culture doesn’t have a binary with lies and truths; everything is a mass of grey. Putin denying that it was his troops on the Ukrainian border is just an example of this. As much as we make comparisons of doublethink in modern parlance and its negative side effects, it is an everyday thing in Russian culture.

All that said, the generation that was born and raised under Putin does not exactly share all the sentiments made here. The one example of a fellow student voicing their displeasure towards Finland is against dozens of others doing the opposite. As it tends to be with these issues, a singular person or not the issue nor are the people per se. However, it is the culture and the leaders of that nation that perpetuate certain views and cultural trends through information warfare against their own citizens. When the government and everyone under them has their fingers in the system, the average citizen can’t really do anything but work with the system. Take a simple thing like nepotism. It’s rampant in Russian systems. Of course, you have to make sure your own family has the best positions and chances. Western systems abhor and have worked for ages to remove even the simplest forms of corruption. This is the opposite, as Russian culture has it baked in. This is one of the numerous reasons for Russia’s lack of success in its campaign in Ukraine, as the leaders have systematically siphoned resources away from equipment and training to their own pockets. This has its roots in the Mongol rule as one of the cultural scars. Not that the Mongols can be the sole perpetrator of this. The Russian people saw cruelty and terror under Stalin, second only to Mao’s China.  One of the biggest mistakes for many Western nations was to treat Russia as one of them, rather than as one of the Asian cultures.

If you’re interested in Russian historical culture and its direct influence on its modern-day actions, I’d recommend watching Martti Kari’s lecture on the subject. He’s an ex-intelligence officer, a lecturer nowadays, with a specialization in Russian history and culture under his belt. There’s a subtitled version for people who’d like to watch it, and if you can stomach autospeech, an English version. It covers a whole lot more than what I have here, but from a more objective view. It is highly recommended for anyone with even the slightest of interests.

Of course, the question of whether or not joining NATO would pose a threat to Russia should be entertained. For Russia, any foreign power strong enough to oppose it is a threat, especially with Russia’s historical disliking of the Western world, despite desperately wanting to be part of it. NATO is a defensive organization, only activated twice; once after 9/11 and the second time after the terror strikes on France. Whether or not you want to believe bad tongues about the alliance, out of the two options it does seem far better. To say Russia has always been a threat used to be politically incorrect, now it’s become a bit more media sexy in certain circles. Russia always had the capacity to invade its smaller neighbours, if it intended to do so. However, they never had a proper justification for it. Even when Russian forces are to protect Russian nationals even abroad, their attack on the Baltics or Finland would be hard to justify within the nation. Ukraine has been, and will always be, a special sore spot for Russia as long as they remember how modern Russia can be said to have started in Ukraine’s Kiev. Russia’s sad history shows they are not to be trusted to respect agreements or hold their end of bargains on the world stage, unless it benefits them. From a point of view of a citizen, in order to protect the sanctity of Finland’s borders and independence, we must find like-minded people who we can trust more so we can prepare for war. For war I hope will never again come. The argument that NATO had lost its relevance after USSR’s dissolution is largely ignoring how Russian Federation more or less continued the exact same path and methods as a direct continuation, just with less communism.

Nevertheless, whatever may come in the future, whether or not Finland manages to join NATO, there is one thing we must avert by all means necessary; the Third World War. Invasion of Ukraine, Finland Joining NATO and everything else has to be put aside for this issue. We can not afford to have a nuclear exchange between countries. We have only one world. Whatever it takes, the nuclear powers must never come into direct conflict with each other, less escalate it to a nuclear war. They are an awesome weapon to protect yourself from the possible enemy, yet they are something that must never be used. This is not an issue of political ideologies or world views, the matter of mutual annihilation touches everyone on the planet an equal amount. With the increase in amounts of tactical nuclear weapons, misreading situations for an actual strategic nuclear strike has become that much easier. A nuclear weapon must not be ever used, as the enemy might retaliate. While we are not near a nuclear exchange at the moment, all sides need to work together in some manner to ensure that the possibility is nil. We don’t need to lose our ways of living and sovereignty for that. We need dialogue and diplomacy for that. However, as we’ve seen this year, it is hard to do peace with someone who is willing to punch you down because they feel afraid for all the reasons you don’t threaten them with. The balance of power, as much as everyone hates it, is something that has always worked in human history. From having a better rock to a sharper knife, from having an iron sword over a bronze one to having rifled guns against smooth bores flintlocks, and to having a higher number of missiles with superior destructive capabilities. In the best-case scenario, which we’ve been in for some time now, the existence of a nuclear arsenal and the threat it poses has kept the stakes low. The lower they are, the less likely the enemy will have a need to resort to stronger retaliation. If we return our gaze back to Finland, even if we were to join NATO, the stakes would be kept low. Whatever government would allow foreign nuclear weaponry on Finnish soil would be letting their people down and spit in face of diplomacy. As long as NATO works as intended as a defensive organization, no power need to worry about it.

All this must seem like a rambling. Mostly because it is. The issue is not exactly easy and I am not too comfortable with these views or sharing them overall. However, we must face the danger that exists and admit that diplomacy has its limits. If we can’t trust a power, we must find allies somewhere else.

As an end note, why is that the featured image? There you see Russians dragging a boat along the river Volga, while at the far right you can see a German steamboat. Things haven’t changed.

A review of Frostbite, or How I met your possible doppelgänger

The presented critic on Frostbite and on its elder brother Desucon has caused sort of a small uproar locally, which has caused this blog to gain five times more visitors than usually, more spam and somewhat more uncivilized comments than usual. Well, good. It’s publicity and the word gets out there, even thou it ultimately gets on my own conscience and nerves. Still, a review of the event itself is in order, and if you found yourself getting mad at me during the previous posts I doubt you’ll like this either.

I admit that I came out in a very hostile manner at start, but everything still applies. Naturally, things change in the light of new information. I love how professionally both the main organizer and main programme executive took so (intentionally) overblown critique. Desucon even has an English and Japanese language versions now. It’s a change for the better and a lot of information I recommended having there actually appear in the English site. Then again, the design is questionable as the left-hand panel has English menu while the Finnish menu is still above. It’s unnecessary clutter. Things like this are small but important details, but I’m sure the staff is going to work on the site in future and renew it from time to time.

I went to Frostbite with a hopeful set of mind. It might be cool, I can meet new people and perhaps make some new contacts if needed. There are clearly people who know their subject and are willing to put their best effort to bring out the best showcase possible. The organizers themselves seemed hopeful enough, so it can’t be all bad, right?

Wakamoto finds your lack of- I can't do this
Wakamoto finds your lack of— I can’t do this 

I won’t go through the whole event, but I’ll talk about few key points that really stood up to me, because they can be applied on the general level as well. All the points are not negative, but there are some big issues here that need to be addressed.

The overall event is as with any event really. The opening came and went. Since every event is handling their openings well enough, it was expected for this to be without any difficulties. During the opening you could see that there was nice selection of people of all ages, and in the hallways I caught some English, Russian and Swedish. During Wakamoto’s event there was a French guy, but we’ll come to that later on. I met a lot of familiar people and all that, but sadly I was unable to greet a newfound friend at any point. Oh shoot.

Speaking of languages, all the signs within the event parameter lacked all sort of English text. I see no reason to not have English text when you know that there will be foreigners.

I contacted the main organizer Mr. Myyrä in order to get some hard facts. He was most helpful with my inquiries. One of the things I wanted to know was the overall visitor amount and the number of foreigners. Please keep in mind that these are loosely translated from Finnish.

– Visitor amount
 The number of visitors was the maximum amount of tickets we sell for Desucon Frostbite, which is 2700. This was too much, as the visitors tend to stay inside during winter, which makes the Sibelius Hall rather tightly packed.
To last summer’s Desucon we sold 2900 tickets and this seemed to work for the space we had. This is why we will sell the same maximum amount of tickets this year as well.

–  Amount of foreign visitors

 The number of foreign visitors was around 20.  When you count the visiting Swedish convention organizers and the likes of Russian Pro Cosplay magazine’s journalists, this rises to around 35. This is about 1% of all visitors.
See? One. Percent! Now you might think that I’d back down about this subject. No, this is a great number considering how small scale the event is. That 1%, if nurtured well enough, can be grown into a higher number. It’s a start, a seed that needs some water and good ground to grow from. However, this would mean that the whole system would need to grow, and most likely this would mean a change of place.
Midday Sunday
Around Sunday noon. You’d think that the main hall had that much room to move in all the time but no

While wandering the hallways and checking everything through, a friend of mine heard a couple of youngsters asking each other Why won’t they get a bigger place? The question is valid. There clearly is demand for a larger event. Of course, there are numerous problems with this, starting with first finding a bigger structure to house the event, the higher price of the event which would most likely be seen in the price of the ticket at first until proper visitor numbers are listed and the general increase of certain workloads would be somewhat significant.

Desucon, as well as Frostbite, has room to grow. However, as evident from the plans the organizers have for the summer’s tickets, it’s clear that they have no intention to allow these events to grow.

– The amount of cancelled tickets and how fast they were resold
The amount of cancelled tickets was around one hundred and they were resold in less than 10 minutes. This sort of system where we sell the returned tickets is not functional, thus we will most likely refrain from selling cancelled tickets in the future, unless something strange happens.
The amount of returns and the speed at which they were resold tells that there is demand for a larger event. Seeing that Desucon has a reputation of sorts to be the definitive convention in Finland, I see no reason for keeping it from growing and expanding to accommodate the growing number of visitors as well as strive for higher quality program. However, there are many things that I assume are holding the organizers back from changing the place from Sibelius Hall to some other place. The paperwork it would take, planning, advertising and all that take their own time, and then there’s the fact that some people see the Sibelius Hall as the place for this specific convention. [Oh bullshit!.Edit] However, we must recognize that if the convention is going to grow for the better, it needs to be allowed to grow in size as well to a certain point where the the amount of tickets and the willing the willing amount of visitor meets. It’s now evident that Sibelius Hall has become too small for this event, and more room to the sales hall wouldn’t hurt either.
It’s a question I wish the organizers to ponder among themselves whether or not they are willing to expand the existing convention to a larger space to serve more customers. If they are not, what are the real reasons behind it and what can be done to serve this smaller amount of customers better. Getting the program quality up would help a lot in this. Actually, that would be the most important step.

Speaking of the space, there was a strange design decision to attach balloons around the guardrails in the stairs, which effectively prevented from using the said guardrails and there were few people who got caught into in them. Attaching them outside the rails would’ve been a better bet, and better for the overall safety of the event. 

Question of space also became evident when visitors began to loaf around, blocking the hallways. I would have wanted to see the patrolling security to separate these blocks and instruct the loafers to move into somewhere they have place to do so, like the cafeteria or the main hall. Naturally, this is because of the aforementioned amount of visitors.  Naturally, the security guards there were pretty chill people, laughing and joking with the visitors.

The ongoing stuff, like the games room and such, were somewhat higher in quality than standard, offering more consoles than some other events, but the overall selection of games seemed to be somewhat limited. Only a certain selection of consoles had a large selection, while others had distinctly scarce. They had a damn PC-Engine there, which I gladly tested through and through in every occasion I could.

I understand why PC-E failed in here West while it enjoyed a moderate success in Japan. It also has an awesome design only with few negative things. It's also tiny!
I understand why PC-E failed in the West while it enjoyed a moderate success in Japan. It also has an awesome design only with few negative things. It’s also tiny!

I need to do a design review on game consoles some day.

There was also a small incident with the ongoing traditional games on Saturday evening, where the players were promised continued light, but due to the evening party all lights were cut down, effectively preventing these players from seeing what they were playing.

But let’s get to the programme itself. It’s apparent that the staff aimed for variety, and in that sense they did succeed. It’s not that easy to juggle different programs so that they do not overlap with the same theme and that they offers options for the visitors. However, all of this is for naught when the programs themselves are lacking in content and quality. For example the Sunday morning’s Gundam show was rather awful. Ville Siivola, the presenter, seemed to spend one year watching through all of Gundam metaseries and not getting but parts of it. While Gundam shows do repeat their certain themes, the UC and Seed series are the only ones that truly share solid common elements. Comparison between Wing and 00’s themes is a bit amiss because they are vastly different as well, but I guess it’s understandable for a person who didn’t really give a damn about the franchise and missed pretty much all the important details that were on the screen. The programme was lacklustre because it was just an opinion and not worth a programme block. Loads of the arguments presented there as well as overall knowledge of the franchise and on the overall era of each series were pretty baseless. While it’s good to see new people watching old shows with open eyes and with no knowledge of the situations surrounding the series, for a presenter to completely dismiss them is just plain stupid. This is a problem, because it’s a controlling element, and can be weeded out if the organizers keep the presenters in a short lease and edit their programs to a point, much a book editor edits a writer’s book. You can have a subjective show for sure, but that’s not an excuse for ignorance. I find it laughable that Siivola recommended the Gundam Crossbone comic, but said soon after that he only knew of the animated works when he was inquired about Gaia Gear. Good thing nobody brought other side-materials out then. The things would’ve gone even more awkward. 

This is a problem, as from-users-to-users, or user created content, rarely produces good content without a harsh screening.

While other programmes were much more knowledgeable on their subjects, majority of them fell into the same pit of having a subjective view of their own; a zero facts show, where everything is assumed. To some extent you’d think that they were paid to advertise products, but I’m sure this wasn’t the case. I only know one event where a presentation was made to advertise a product, but less said about that the better. On top of that, all the classical errors you could do in a presentation appeared from talking over with your host, turning your back to the audience and reading what’s on the screen. Perhaps all people who are admitted to have a panel or presentation should get a some sort of memo from the main staff what not to do during their show. 

The main stage also was almost completely empty of programme, which is really strange. It’s a shame that a large stage like that was mostly ignored when it could’ve been put to good use.  While it is known that the main stage needs to empty for rehearsals and walkthroughs, that’s not reason to leave it completely useless.

In short; despite the efforts put in the quality and variety in the programme, the results could’ve been much better. Not to say that there was no good presentation or panel, like the Invitation to Japanese comic studies, but we can all agree that two or three pearls doesn’t make the overall schedule shine as it should. In the end, it’s up to the main programme manager keep up the quality of the programme. It’s not enough just to take people in and have them do content, but this content needs to meet certain standards, and it appears these standards have never been set.

It’s also a fault that from-users-for-users format never really works when aiming for high quality. This user generated content is always a finicky thing. You get one or two decent results through that, but on the long run the system becomes abused in a way where the user comes in with content that is basically worthless and still gets a free pass. In this case, a lot of people make content for conventions just to get in free and don’t care if their program is good or not. What I’ve gathered was that Desucon was made to bring high-quality events and programme into Finnish convention scene, but as they are now they’re just as bad as any because of the system abuse. While the concept is sound at the base level, it falls apart when you take into account how little your run-of-the-mill person cares what he puts up.

However, the main event itself was Wakamoto on stage and you really can’t screw this kind of thing up. Except, y’know, when it comes to translating audience’s questions to him.

I’m glad they set the rules before anything else; taking photos are OK except when video footage was on, and taking video was banned altogether. I should’ve taken sound next to my photos. This is completely understandable as Wakamoto’s voice is his trade. The footage they showed had original Finnish subtitles, which is a great way to circumvent some licensing issues, thou the footage itself might’ve had some issues, but I’m sure the staff managed to get around that as well.

Wakamoto on stage

However, when it came to the second part of Wakamoto’s stage show, where he answered to questions from the audience, the translator was really struggling with some of the questions, and few questions were poorly translated, which led into Wakamoto misunderstanding the question. This is unavoidable to an extent, but noting that the translator lacked certain knowledge and finesse tells that either this person had a huge stage fright going on or wasn’t really up for the task. In situations like this it’s completely acceptable to hire a professional translator with proper experience if possible. Considering the translator himself was most likely a fan, I find it stupid for him not recognizing YouTube: M.D. Geist, not even from the context of the event. I could’ve expected that from a translator who isn’t accustomed to talk about the subject, even when from the context it’s damn clear that it’s something to do with Wakamoto and anime scene.

No, he didn't wear shades but he should've had.
No, he didn’t wear shades but he should’ve had. After all, he IS Most Dangerous Wakamoto

Now, there was this competition between artwork and Wakamoto impressions. Two best artworks would win and so would the best impression. Sounds good. There was a relatively low amount of contestants in the artwork side, about thirty, and knowing the level Finland has with its fanartists it most likely yielded something exceptional.

Ladies and gentlemen, plagiarism
It’s not even a good fucking trace!

Now excuse me for being coarse the next paragraph but what the hell is this shit? THIS is the winning piece of fanart? If you allow this piece of plagiarism win a contest, what the fuck were the competing works? Put up a damn gallery on your website so we all can see them. This is not fanart, this is a bad trace of an existing comic panel and it’s bad at that. Who the hell was in charge of this contest? It doesn’t help that the second place was won with a picture of Cell from Dragon Ball Z that looked like it was made with fucking crayons in ten minutes. Where’s all the awesome artwork we usually see? The level of the contest shows that people didn’t give two damns about it. God, I wish I had participated with a screenshot from Gunbuster with some new rasters. It would’ve been the same damn thing. This is just bullshit. I’m not even going to criticise the Wakamoto impression because it was horrible and embarrassing to listen to. I’m addressing this critique to both the staff and to Isoaho himself. Letting a tracing to win an art contest is a mistake, but Isoaho also managed to screw the picture. If you compare it to the original panel, you can see every little and big mistake he has done. Either Isoaho can’t draw or he sucks at tracing. On top of that, as a separate artwork the picture is dull as hell in contrast to the original. Good job at fucking up a good comic panel. I really want to see the other participants’ works as well, and they could put up a gallery in Frostbite’s page. They can’t be any worse than what this piece of crap is.

Beside that, the prices themselves were pretty damn near; an alarm clock with Wakamoto’s voice recorded in it, and his autograph as well. The audience who sat in certain spots with numbers was were in a lottery of who would get the remaining two. To my happy surprise a French person won one of those, and the other was won by a random Finnish guy. Kudos to that guy.

Speaking of Wakamoto, it seems that he only stayed within the country for three days from Saturday to Monday. I really do wish that he had as fun time as claimed, and to see him here for a vacation rather than for work like this.

It had escaped me until that point that the whole show was in Finnish. If it had been an option, some sort of translation for them would’ve been really damn awesome, but as it was now I can’t help but to think how indecipherable the whole event was for them. It’s a matter worth looking into. An English language leaflet would also be an excellent addition. Of course, this would’ve been in limited production and aimed only for the foreign visitors.

These things are rather small, but important. It’s easy to get blind at these things, and Frostbite showed that since their first years the staff have become a bit too accustomed to the way everything works to the point that they have become blind to the more intricate details that need attention, and to their faults that have risen. God live in the details after all, and while the overall frames might work without a fault, all the details are what builds what the customer experiences. I’m glad to see that the organizers are willing to take in harsh criticism and work to get them fixed.

However, there was one large point that I need to point and it comes to the porn sold there. The sales floor was basically a free-for-all zone, and certain sellers sold their pornographic fancomics openly for minors without checking IDs or similar. That’s practically illegal. I’d hate to think that the organizers are unwillingly to take part in sexual harassment of under aged people. As open as I am with porn, I recognize that in an event like this the R-18 comics, toys and so on need their own section behind the curtains with a guard to check IDs when necessary. I’m sure this sounds anal to most people, but I’d rather see Desucon and Frostbite continuing and possibly getting better (rather than worse) than seeing the people charged for breaking the law. I have no qualms for a young person to see porn on the Internet, as it is the parents’ job to instruct and educate the children with this matter, but allowing children a direct access to porn and even allow its promotion is going too far in doing nothing.  It takes one phone call to local Police office and tell, that this event has sellers selling porn to children, and that the organizers are turning blind eye to it.

One thing that makes conventions like this what they are is the fellow participants. Everybody to whom I stopped to chat with were most helpful, interesting and honest. Even when I didn’t get to know these people, nor they got to know me, we enjoyed the new company and laughed at our bad jokes. Sadly, this can’t be attributed for the convention’s own positive nor negative, as this can be achieved in your local library as well. Your standard Finnish doesn’t really break their shells and talk to strange, unknown people. Within this sort of environment ,where you know everybody is just as loony as you, it becomes increasingly easier.

While I did not attend the lodgings provided by the local scouts, I did hear some negative comments on them. As such, the following criticism is mostly taken from discussion with three of my friends who did. According to them, there was a problem with water resources, as the water was cut at certain time, meaning that the use of restrooms and showers was impossible. There was only three restrooms for seventy people, which caused some serious commotions. The showers were also unisex showers, which caused some slight discomfort. Communication between the administrators and the scouts was also faulty, causing some chaos in their ranks. They did get a decent and cheap breakfast, so that’s a plus, but according to this set of people there wasn’t any choices for those with food allergies.

It’s kind of interesting to see that this kind of cheap lodgings provided by the organizers had these problems. Most of the time I’ve heard good things how things work, but it takes only one bad time to get a negative reputation to circulate. I wish things will go much better next time, and that the organizers will take do what they can in order to ensure the flow of water.

I don’t really have any proper closure. Depending on my work and life situation, I’d sort of want to participate to summer’s convention to see how it goes this time. They have time to change details for the better, and start checking the programming. I have been offered a chance to create program, thou that would mean that I have two programs to create for two separate conventions. Not a big job as such, but for a proper programme it takes six months to study and research the subjects if you’re unfamiliar with it, but seeing that I would make other based on brand management, the other would take considerably less time to make. I do understand the implications behind this tactic thou, asking a critic to take part, but I do believe we are not that childish to resort in actions or debate like that. If the organizers wish to comment on the presented critic, I will be publishing their responses as usual.

Events and organizers need criticism just as badly as any service field, and in their place building up proper criticism needs to be something they have to work with. In cases like this, where the event itself is an annual event, it would be good to introduce as much criticism in order for the next year to trump over the last.

Wakamoto is either telling you to Make it so, or Stop that shit now
Wakamoto is either telling you to Make it so, or to Stop that shit now

Let’s finish this off with some music, shall we?