Women

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

 

In honor of International Women’s Day this week (March 8), we are featuring an Around LA with Ava column from a few years ago entitled WOMEN:

WOMEN

Things to Ponder Category:

Why is there a Women’s History Month when there is not a Men’s History Month?

Women still seem to be considered a minority even though they populate half of the world.  Most men will acknowledge that we women have been running ‘things’ for quite a while, even if in a quiet, ‘behind-the-scenes’ way.  However, now that so many men now report to women bosses in the workplace, it is best not to press that issue.

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Anyway, I am all for celebrating.  Any excuse for a party, n’est pas?

The first Women’s Month celebration I can remember was hosted by dear friend Bitte Westerlund, wife of former Consul General Jörn Donner, during their tenure here in LA.  It was a remarkable event.  Attending were this area’s most prominent women in politics, business, film, and the like.  Nothing like this had been held before.  All of us attending were so excited to be a part of something new –we felt a universal bond.  Connie Rice [no, not the Secretary—she is a civil rights attorney], Beata Pozniak, Elina Vesara, Ruth Goldway, Dr. Leena Peltonen-Palotie, and so many others were brought together by Bitte.   It is hard to get Finns together collectively, but Bitte “leaned in” and her personal force has left an indelible mark on the LA scene and on the Finnish women’s dynamic.  We are eternally grateful in the Finnish community for her contributions during her time here.

Bitte Westerlund_Ava

Bitte Westerlund

And…:

This has been a big year for celebrating Women’s History Month.

Easter weekend marked the 100th anniversary of Suffrage for Women in the US [1913].  Finnish women gained full political rights in 1906, even before our homeland won its Independence.  Finland was the first nation in the world to have women elected to its Parliament [1907].

Women representatives at the Finnish parliament in 1907

Women representatives at the Finnish parliament in 1907

Finnish women have been particularly on my mind with their awesome accomplishments [no bias—just pride!].  I was led to reflect on the famous Finnish females who have graced our sunny Southern California shores when now retired Ambassador Maria Serenius  returned ‘home’ this March.  Maria was the first woman Finnish Consul General in Los Angeles.

Ava with Ambassador Maria Serenius

Ava with Ambassador Maria Serenius

As a ‘fringe benefit’ of being active in local Finnish groups and programs –and, if you are willing to get downtown for a 7 AM breakfast, you get to ‘visit’ with some really neat people.  Sometimes those visits are in a ‘small group’ setting as a few of us experienced with the then Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen who went on to serve as Finland’s President for 12 years.  I can remember the Finnish pride I felt as Minister Halonen answered a tricky question about Finland’s vaunted neutrality and the NATO participation requirement for membership in European Union that was in final formation stages.  The future President proved her diplomatic ‘chops’ with an answer she may have been ‘trying out’ for similar questions from a larger audience in the future: NATO participation is problematic for Finland.  Since we have the longest border with Russia, I propose that Finland secure that border and let NATO take care of the rest.  Poised, confident, and bold in her answer, there were no follow-up questions on the subject.

Finland’s First Female Ambassador to the United States Visits:

Speaking of famous Finnish females, I hope you got to meet Ritva Koukku-Ronde, Finland’s first female Ambassador to the United States on her recent West Coast visit.  The Ambassador joined Consul General Kirsti Westphalen and Honorary Consul Kathryn Mautino in San Diego before being the Guest of Honor and Keynote Speaker at the Finlandia Foundation National’s 60th Anniversary Celebration in Pasadena.

Ambassador Ritva Koukku-Ronde at Finlandia Foundation’s 60th Anniversary celebration.

Finlandia Foundation National’s Performers of the Year:

Marja Kaisla (FFN Performer of the Year 2013) and Maria Mannisto (FFN Performer of the Year 2007) each performed in concert for the large and appreciative 60th Anniversary Celebration audience.

Finlandia Foundation National’s Lecturer of the Year:

Dr. Glenda Dawn Goss

As part of the 60th Anniversary Celebration, FFN showcased their 2012 Lecturer of the Year, Glenda Dawn Goss, on Friday night preceding the Anniversary Gala.  Dr. Goss made Finland’s cultural awakening come to life through her unique presentation on the life of Jean Sibelius.  She used music, historical slides, and personal descriptions in her scholarly evaluation.  Dr. Goss’s personal perspective comes as a scholar from Georgia (in the American South) who has lived in Finland since 1998.

Dr. Goss made Finland’s cultural awakening come to life through her unique presentation on the life of Jean Sibelius.

Dr. Goss made Finland’s cultural awakening come to life through her unique presentation on the life of Jean Sibelius

Those of us in the sold-out audience were taken back in time by a description of the life of Sibelius that also detailed how the Maestro came to be such an important and recognized figure in the United States.

She declared that Sibelius created “…what it means to be Finnish” and, thereby, paved the way for the Golden Age of Arts that was to follow.  This was the awakening of the Finnish Identity.  I think Finns all have the sounds of Sibelius’s music burned in our hearts, minds, and souls –an affirmation of our Finnish pride.

I can’t wait to read Dr. Goss’s new biography: Sibelius: A Composer’s Life and the Awakening of Finland; University of Chicago Press; 2009.

A Little Girl Remembers:

Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco

Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco

As a youngster my parents would put me on a Greyhound bus, alone, headed for San Francisco  from the San Jose depot [no one would dare do that today, I know—different time/different rules].  My Pirkko-täti (a vivacious single lady in those days) would take me to a record shop by Ghirardelli Square on those visits.  I remember the shop because Sibelius played in the background, just like home!  The owner of the shop had a ‘thing’ for my aunt, I think.  Once, he bent down and told me “ …you will never be fit to marry unless you know all of the symphonies of Sibelius”.

That long-buried memory came back as I listened to Dr. Goss’s lecture.  Still, I do keep playing those symphonies!

More About FFN Lecturer of the Year Program:

LOY is a national initiative by Finlandia Foundation National started in 2006.  The program’s aim is to promote Finland and to explain the Finnish-American connection.

An early FNN/LOY I supported at the Beverly Hills Library was a fascinating presentation by Susan Saarinen (granddaughter of Eliel and Loja Saarinen) and Mark Coir (architectural historian).  That too was an excellent program with talks that illuminated the international exhibit on Finnish architect Eero Saarinen’s life and work that toured the US for several years.  Saarinen’s work in the US [TWA at JFK/Dulles at Washington, DC—and his LA work with Eames of chair fame] is well known and admired.

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Susan Saarinen by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

These programs are so well organized, inspiring, informative, and fun!!  When you leave, you want to be sure your fellow attendees know you are Finnish too—even though boasting is not permitted!

FFN Is 60!!:

The crown jewel of activities in the Finnish community this March was Finlandia Foundation National’s 60th Anniversary Gala Dinner and Concert.  Finland’s Ambassador to the United States Ritva Koukku-Ronde was the Honored Guest and Keynote Speaker.

Marvin Suomi served as Master of Ceremonies.  With Marvin was his lovely wife Marieclaire even though the whole Suomi family was leaving for Japan the next morning when the children’s Spring Break began.

Ava with Andrea McAleenan of Azusa-Pacific University

The evening was informative and entertaining.  It was a delight to meet the many Trustees of FFN.  Tarja Silverman (a FFN Trustee from New York) was seated at my table.  Between us was one of my favorite local Finns and long time friend Heidi Crooks (Chief Nursing Officer of the UCLA Health System).  Andrea McAleenan of Azusa-Pacific University (formerly in charge of the EU Center at the Claremont Colleges) dropped by to say hello and to remind us all to attend FinnFest ’13 being held on the Finlandia University Campus in June on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Finlandia University President Philip Johnson was in attendance, as well.

Hollywood in the Desert:   

After Awards Season in LA [aka Winter], the fancy gowns are out and everyone is still in a festive mood ready for the next big party.  When Hollywood quiets down, the real fun, social scene moves with the ‘glitterati’ to the California desert.  They are joined by the “snowbirds” from colder climates who have the resources and resolve to ‘get out of Dodge’ before the snow flies!

My dear old Hollywood friend (the late Greta Peck) loved her ‘Winter’ time with her ‘crowd’ in the warm and welcoming desert with all the activities and ‘goings-on’.  She loved to tell tales—but my lips are sealed.  In the sweltering Summer months, the place turns into a ghost town.  Now, in high season, the streets are bumper to bumper and dinner reservations at the top restaurants are a precious commodity.  The parties go on late into the night in this warm, happy party town.

Ava and Greta Peck

A desert resurgence has taken place as a new generation has taken over with second/third… homes in lavish surroundings.  Private jets now vie with commercial airliners for space at the Palm Springs Airport.  Those who can do live in leisure and luxury.  Even those who still work can carry an electronic ‘office’ and are able to shuttle back and forth depending on the season, the reason, or the event.  Smiles, tans, and good moods abound.  A strong sense of philanthropy dominates the social world and many charities benefit from those ‘goings-on’.

Golf, Tennis, Pools, and Pageants:

Golf, tennis, and pools have long been desert daytime staples.  Professional golf and tennis tours have major tournaments in the desert during March each year.  Following an afternoon of watching the professionals play, an evening of talk over cocktails and dinner, a good night of great dreams in the balmy, fresh night air, it is no surprise to find the sweet morning stillness at La Quinta Resort broken by the thuds of tennis balls and ‘grunts’.  The morning ‘jocks’ have been inspired by their heroes’ performances from the day [or their dreams of the night] before and seek to duplicate the same perfect strokes.  After a short bit, the gardeners take over with their equipment manicuring the grounds before the heat of the midday sun.  The sequential noise patterns combine to leave a ‘peace offering’ of grapefruit that have been ‘rattled’ from the trees for the guests to enjoy.

La Quinta Resort

As my friend from Washington, DC [VB] and I were quietly doing water aerobics in a small pool in Santa Rosa Cove at La Quinta we noticed Donald Rumsfeld [Gulf War I Secretary of Defense—among his many other accomplishments] ‘chilling’ on a poolside lounge chair.  Just another day at the beach—his war is over.

My concert pianist friend [DP] is also a superb tennis player.  The Tour Tennis Tournament was ‘on’ and all La Quinta televisions were turned to the tennis action 24/7 –especially in the pro shop where exquisite tennis gear can dress one for success on the court or in your dreams.

Fashion Week:   

Fashion Week is also big during this season in the desert.  That grand pageant was about to begin with exhibitions and special events scheduled back to back.  The night I was there, my architect friend [JJ] from LA was able to obtain much coveted tickets to The Fashions of Leonore Annenberg at the Visitor’s Center at Sunnylands.  [The Walter and Leonore Anneberg Estate Sunnylands is a must see recommendation for everyone.]

Fashions worn by Walter and Leonore Annenberg and modern interpretations of those outfits by designers were the focus of the Nightlife series at Sunnylands Center & Gardens

Fashions worn by Walter and Leonore Annenberg and modern interpretations of those outfits by designers were the focus of the Nightlife series at Sunnylands Center & Gardens

The Fashion Show on March 13th was abuzz with the beautiful women of the desert.  Each designer shown was interpreting (in their own contemporary perspective) the designs originally worn by Leonore Annenberg.  Mrs. Annenberg’s original gowns were on display and a runway presentation of the new designs was featured.  Among those guests present was iconic black fashion model Betsey Johnson.  A martini tasting of infused vodkas and hors d’oeuvres preceded the runway show.

[The Annenberg Estate ‘Sunnylands’ tour provides a marvelous view into American history, but must be deferred for another column. ‘Sunnylands’ (designed by US architect A. Quincy Jones) now offers tours to the public.  Tickets are hard to come by, but are worth the effort if you know you will be in the area.]

Leonore Annenberg:

Leonore Annenberg

Leonore Annenberg

Leonore Annenberg fits into the Celebration of Women for her accomplishments in the world of politics and diplomacy not only as the wife of an Ambassador, but because she held the rank of Ambassador herself when she served as Chief of Protocol for President Ronald Reagan.  More importantly, she worked quietly ‘behind-the-scenes’ facilitating the movers and shakers of American history, as well as, foreign leaders and royalty in historic preparations/negotiations in her homes.

Female Finnish Conductor Coming to LA Philharmonic at Disney Hall:

Finnish Conductor Susanna Mälkki

Susanna Mälkki, Finnish Conductor and Music Director of the Ensemble intercontemporain, will conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra on April 12, 13, and 14.  The Concerts will feature works by Poppe, Stravinsky, and Brahms.   www.laphil.com.

Scandinavian Festival:

The Annual Scandinavian Festival in Thousand Oaks at the Cal Lutheran University Campus begins on April 20th.  This is always a fun event.  Come meet fellow Finns and other Scandinavians.  Shop, taste treats, see friends, and enjoy entertainment.  Stand with Finnish pride.  Come say hello!

New Los Angeles County Jail Chief Is A Woman:

The largest jail system in the country has a new manager, Terri McDonald

Sheriff of Los Angeles County is an elected position.  As we know, politicians are noted for telling constituents whatever they want to hear.  We have learned to ‘filter’ statements and responses to questions, withholding judgment of our ‘leaders’ until we see their actions.

Lee Baca has mentioned how much he admires the strength and leadership of Finnish women.  Words of a politician—words of a diplomat—words to please a constituent—words to assuage a volunteer?  Proof is in performance.

Sheriff LeRoy D. Baca has just appointed a woman to manage the nation’s largest jail system.  His appointee (Terri McDonald) has earned a reputation as a tough manager.  Previously Ms. McDonald was with the California State Prison System where she helped institute major prison reform.

Other Women Warriors:

As I close this column, the ‘wires’ are humming with the news that Julia Pierson has been named the first woman in charge of the US Secret Service.

President Barack Obama watches as Vice President Joe Biden administers the oath of office to incoming U.S. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson during a swearing-in ceremony in the Oval Office, March 27, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

YOU GO GIRLS!!!

 

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear

As an ever-curious, pondering, wandering fan of this City of Angels, irony, serendipity, the meaning of words, and life’s coincidences enter my thoughts often –especially sitting in a non-moving vehicle.

If you live in Los Angeles, chances are that a large portion of your day is spent sitting in traffic in a car you drive yourself.  If you don’t live in Los Angeles, you have heard our laments.

If you live in Los Angeles, chances are that a large portion of your day is spent sitting in traffic in a car you drive yourself.

If you live in Los Angeles, chances are that a large portion of your day is spent sitting in traffic in a car you drive yourself.

Despite attempts to change the car culture with massive investments in mass transit projects or the pesky, highly motivated, and ‘subversively’ dangerous bicycle ‘political’ movement, most real Angelenos love their cars.  Some love them in quirky ways— even giving them names like pets or family members.  Such fierce loyalty to their Metal Friends develops and is sustained despite the ‘cost/benefit ratio’ going down the tubes as the repair bills rise for their aging buckets of bolts.

Despite attempts to change the car culture with massive investments in mass transit projects or the pesky, highly motivated, and ‘subversively’ dangerous bicycle ‘political’ movement..

Despite attempts to change the car culture with massive investments in mass transit projects or the pesky, highly motivated, and ‘subversively’ dangerous bicycle ‘political’ movement..

I plead guilty:  until the other month, the last car I bought was in 1995!

My neighbor in Manhattan Beach had a car dealership that had been in his Austrian family for generations.  While his dealership was in the San Fernando Valley, the family had figured out that there were lots of reasons why people traded in their cars.  I bought that ’95 because my older model would not make it up the Sepulveda Pass as my children grew and the little engine could not handle their additional weight.  The cars bought/traded were the same—midnight blue 4 door sedans.

On the wall of the Dealership was a Polaroid photograph of each customer proudly standing next to their newly purchased vehicle posing with a bouquet of red roses provided by the Dealership. It was almost wedding-like!

Loyalty is big thing to me.  I have been loyal to that sweet, plucky, four cylinder, midnight blue, Finnish feeling European fuel miser with a FIN decal on its bumper that still sits in the driveway even though it has not been driven in years.  Reluctantly, my newest ‘old’ car will soon to be on its way to a car donor organ charity aka a chop-shop.

After all these years, a new car is a big thing to this simple girl.  All right, my “new car” is not this year’s model, fresh out of the dealership—and there was no bouquet of roses!  It is a 5 year old, very low mileage beauty maintained as exquisitely as a Hollywood starlet!  The car was purchased from a private party.

Technology has changed the automobile with new-fangled electronics.  My beauty has all of the ‘bells and whistles’ cars are equipped with these days. Sitting in my new toy for the first times, the same message came at me in text in the many rear view mirrors and in other messaging devices: Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear.

..Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear.

..Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear.

What the @#&% ?!!?  What is the meaning of this?  Each time the car is put in reverse the screen of the ‘photograph like’ rear view provided, the same existential message appears.  Shall I surrender now –or wait until I get on the freeway?

Truthfully, at first, I was so busy reading screens and mirrors, I almost forgot to pay attention to the people and the cars I used to look to avoid!

Big Things/Close Things

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The ‘ginormous’ NASA fuel tank that made its way to our lovely City of Angels by way of the Panama Canal from Louisiana arrived with proper fanfare.

The new car’s mirrors, screens, and messages were the harbinger of this column.  In our LA microcosm of life, things do seem to be getting bigger and getting closer.

What I call ‘performance Art’ started off the month here.  The ‘ginormous’ NASA fuel tank that made its way to our lovely City of Angels by way of the Panama Canal from Louisiana arrived with proper fanfare.  That was the same morning the shopping needed to be done for the Taina Elg event I had agreed to cater for the Finlandia Foundation.  Normally a news ‘junkie’, I did not have KNX1070 tuned in on my radio as I headed out to Costco, that magnificent money pit of stores located at Lincoln and Washington in Marina Del Rey.  Having violated a basic tenet of L.A. driving, of course, I ended up right where the debut of the ‘Tank Transport’ show was happening that morning.  So, I made it to the ‘opening of a show’ where I had not planned to go.  That tank made it into this column, even though I did not have my Costco supplies for the event pending.

Long term readers may remember the ‘rock’.  I mean the ‘performance art’ transport of a piece later named Levitated Mass that wound its way through freeway closures and cheering crowds a while back.  That piece now sits permanently at LACMA where you can walk under it.

Then, there was Endeavour space vehicle that I endeavored to photograph as it ‘zoomed’ on its last flight over the house.  It then went on to make L.A. history with its 2 mph ‘ceremonial lap’ for adoring fans snapping ‘selfies’.  That mother of all space shuttles needed giant trees to be felled on L.A.’s lovely boulevards before it made its journey to Exposition Park, its final resting/showplace.

That mother of all space shuttles needed giant trees to be felled on L.A.’s lovely boulevards before it made its journey to Exposition Park, its final resting/showplace.

That mother of all space shuttles needed giant trees to be felled on L.A.’s lovely boulevards before it made its journey to Exposition Park, its final resting/showplace.

Now it was the fuel tank’s turn to be joined forever with its space partner in launching on display for the pre-jettison pose.  It was fun to be close.  The tank was big. The two will be displayed vertically side by side pointing skyward clutching each other tightly as in their original pre-launch space hug.

It is funny how adoring fans show up for events involving inanimate objects in this town dedicated to bringing life to the mind and imagination!  It is almost like the political rallies this year …but, don’t get me started on that topic!  [Other than to say things are “huge”, if you “feel the Bern”… !]

Ambassador and Ambivalence

His Excellency David O’Sullivan [Ambassador of the European Union to the United States] was in town for an address at the UCLA Faculty Club on the timely topic “Europe at the Crossroads”.  As for the European Union, Mr. O’Sullivan felt that all countries were now better off, even as he noted the importance of the vote on June 23rd on the ‘Brexit’ issue [before the vote].  With his perspective of 35 years in European service, he expressed concern that the political crises have been and will be destabilizing.

His Excellency David O’Sullivan [Ambassador of the European Union to the United States] was in town for an address at the UCLA Faculty Club on the timely topic “Europe at the Crossroads”

His Excellency David O’Sullivan [Ambassador of the European Union to the United States] was in town for an address at the UCLA Faculty Club on the timely topic “Europe at the Crossroads”

Note: As this column goes to press, we know the ‘Brexit’ vote.  What will be next?  Will France pull a ‘Frexit’; will Czechoslovakia do a ‘Czechquit’; Finland a ‘Finnish’?  Still pending is the newly articulated ‘do-over’ proposed by the Brits who woke up to find “…Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear”!  Fasten your seatbelts—rocky road ahead!!!

O’Sullivan told that there is 15 times more trade with the EU and Russia than anyone else.  Sanctions have hurt the EU.  What happens if there is no EU?  How does Russia pay for goods and services with oil at €42?

O’Sullivan told that there is 15 times more trade with the EU and Russia than anyone else.

O’Sullivan told that there is 15 times more trade with the EU and Russia than anyone else.

With the millions of refugees already in Europe, many thousand dead, and 200,000 rescued by EU vessels, the global migrant problem will only get worse.  Sullivan told that in the 2014 elections in the EU, many anti-EU officials were elected.  As to the U.S. stand on migration, he quoted Churchill: “The US will always do the right thing after they have exhausted all other options.”  Was that a polite way of saying Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear or was he setting up a hedge for the British ‘do-over’?

FACC Board Member Heidi Crooks sitting next to me beat me to her feet to ask the question on many minds (and in the piece in Amerikan Uutiset) about the military buildup, the Baltic fly-over ‘buzzings’, and other provocations by Finland’s Eastern neighbor.   O’Sullivan said they were a big concern for him.  Stressing the importance of solidarity on this issue, O’Sullivan said the issue will continue to be dangerous and worrisome.

Mr. O’Sullivan reminisced about his first visit to LA at the age of 9 in 1961—the Wizard of Oz was yet to be colorized.  No matter how many rocks or fuel tanks we stock, we all remember the ‘magic’ of our childhood experiences in ‘tinsel town’! 

Ambassador Re-Dux

Later that week, I was present as Ambassador O’Sullivan opened the EU Film Festival.  Since the venues and audiences were so diverse, it was perfectly understandable that Mr. O’Sullivan used the same sentiments—and the same anecdotes.

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The event at the Egyptian Theater was great fun!  Many Finnish and other European ‘movers and shakers’ were around including: Erkki and Ilona Kanto, Liisa and Ahvo Linnala, Bo Svenson, and our new Consul for Commercial and Trade Affairs Aki Luukkainen—among many others.  The Finnish short film Just a Name was a perfect way to start off the festivities for the film festival.  It was hilarious!

My conclusion was that the Big EU Film Festival concept is fantastic!! Great leadership and help was provided by Consul General Juha (J.P.) Markkanen and his wonderful Consular staff.

My conclusion was that the Big EU Film Festival concept is fantastic!! Great leadership and help was provided by Consul General Juha (J.P.) Markkanen and his wonderful Consular staff.

My conclusion was that the Big EU Film Festival concept is fantastic!!  Great leadership and help was provided by Consul General Juha (J.P.) Markkanen and his wonderful Consular staff.  Thanks to our Consulate’s efforts, the affair was –“…right on!!!”

Be Alert

In a place like Los Angeles, it is often hard to know what to pay attention to at any point in time.  So much happens all around us.  Are things closer or bigger that we see them?   Living here, the ‘filters’ need to be fine-tuned in our business and personal lives.  The UCLA Faculty Club and the Egyptian Theatre are not normal ‘bed fellows’, yet I got ‘close-ups’ with Ambassador O’Sullivan at each!

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John is a real life flying super hero who was Chief Advisor for the original Top Gun movie.

An event I attended honoring the Women of Eagle Scouts by the Council of Boy Scouts of America would seem to have little to do with Ambassador O’Sullivan and my concerns about provocative Russian ‘buzzing’ of EU objects/potential targets.  Yet, the Boy Scout speaker was TOP GUN Navy Fighter Pilot John H. Semecken, III.  John is a real life flying super hero who was Chief Advisor for the original Top Gun movie.  If you saw the movie, you saw John in his starring role singing “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” right next to Tom Cruise.  Like Alfred Hitchcock’s penchant for appearing in some random scene in each of his films, John got the ‘lollipop’ of singing a drinking song on screen!  His incredible career and personal achievements got him his ‘singing gig’!

Dressed in his flight suit for the Women of Eagle Scouts presentation, Fighter Pilot Semecken looked the role as he told of days-of-yore “buzzing” of Soviet aircraft, knowing there would be photographs taken by the Soviets even if they knew Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear.  His team placed a visible gag item [best described as something inflatable from an adult store!] on board that would be clearly visible in the Kremlin ‘news shots’ taken of the US jets as they buzzed the Soviet aircraft in the Indian Ocean.

I am worried about backing out of my driveway because I have too many mirrors and cameras giving me too many messages to decipher.  Our Top Guns play games with ‘inflatables’ at supersonic speeds!  The flying high jinxes were not the same for O’Sullivan and Semecken—different people were doing the buzzing!

Elsewhere: Random Thoughts While Sitting in Traffic 

Driving on The Strip for the EU Film Festival, there were many folks headed for a place where a Purple neon sign announced: “No rock star died today!”  A young lady [with an elderly friend with high heeled platform shoes who could hardly make it across the street] was paying homage to an idol in what seemed like an important ‘pilgrimage of respect’ for Big Rock Idol PRINCE.

Later, along Hollywood Boulevard (at Graumann’s) is a store named La La Land. The cement mixer ahead of me in traffic had signs warning of “danger”. I guess you can get encased in cement while waiting for a red light.

Later, along Hollywood Boulevard (at Graumann’s) is a store named La La Land. The cement mixer ahead of me in traffic had signs warning of “danger”. I guess you can get encased in cement while waiting for a red light.

Later, along Hollywood Boulevard (at Grauman’s) is a store named La La Land.  The cement mixer ahead of me in traffic had signs warning of “danger”.  I guess you can get encased in cement while waiting for a red light.  Do you need a reservation to be ‘seated’ at Grauman’s??

In a big place like LA, things are always happening.  Sometimes we can ignore events.  Sometimes a big response is required.   Sometimes it helps to know which response is appropriate!

A short time ago in the early AM, a marked Police Car came into the quiet cul de sac where I live and parked.  Two fully equipped officers got out of the unit carrying their batons—normally left in the car or carried on their belts.  That was sufficiently different that it was time to pay attention.  After a bit, one of the officers came back to the car and moved it from the curb to a position blocking exit from deep inside the cul de sac.  After another bit, a second cruiser arrived with one officer who also parked in a ‘blocking’ mode and walked on in.  Things were getting ‘curiouser’ and ‘curiouser’!!

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A short time ago in the early AM, a marked Police Car came into the quiet cul de sac where I live and parked.

A short time ago in the early AM, a marked Police Car came into the quiet cul de sac where I live and parked.

Suddenly, all three policemen sprinted out to their vehicles with screeching U-turns and squealed out with rubber burning—one barely missing a neighbor coming home!  We knew something important was happening—the helicopters and building sirens told us it was more than the first cops were investigating!

The TV local news gave the bottom line on what ‘big thing’ was going on:  UCLA was in full lockdown mode!  A mass shooting on campus was feared with attention centered on the Engineering Building.  OMG—our dear next door neighbor is an Engineering Professor!  Hours of pacing and watching gut-wrenching news coverage followed with no definitive personal news.  Media covered the over-the-top law enforcement response, news filtered out about what had transpired, and any reasonable observer could see that the Responders had matters under control.

After his fearful and fateful day on campus, our ashen-faced, grief stricken neighbor arrived home.  He had been just a few doors away from what turned out to be a murder/suicide (student-teacher) in his Mechanical Engineering Department.

Talk about too close for comfort: FinnTimes publisher Tomi Hinkkanen told that he had been in that same building on a project just the day before!  In fact, it was a clean tech visit for Finns, with my dear neighbor featured.

We never did figure out what our earlier law enforcement persons were investigating.

Going to my car later in the day to begin some errands, I noticed someone laid out sleeping in my back seat just before I got into the car.  The Police were called, again.  Revolvers drawn, 3 policemen made the arrest of a guy loaded with tattoos who had broken in; they simply described as a “criminal”.

I was really glad that I had not tried to drive away when: Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear –and are criminal!

Worth the Wait in Traffic

On a happy note: Guests had a chance to be up close and personal as Taina Elg had her CloseUp at the Finlandia Foundation National’s Performer of the Year event.  Also featured was Heli Sirviö.

Guests had a chance to be up close and personal as Taina Elg had her Close-Up at the Finlandia Foundation National’s Performer of the Year event.

Guests had a chance to be up close and personal as Taina Elg had her Close-Up at the Finlandia Foundation National’s Performer of the Year event.

A former Performer of the Year herself, the beautiful and talented Finlandia Foundation’s Maria Kizirian had a party concept that worked brilliantly.  Celebrating old Hollywood with guests encouraged to ‘dress up’ made for a fun event in the gardens.  Hats, feathers, pearls, caftans, Hollywood moguls in Panama hats, and “pin-up” girl styles were the order of the day.  It was fun!

Maria, Leena Tukiainen, Jeff Neff, and I had fun planning the retro-Hollywood style passed hors d’oevres we served.

Maria, Leena Tukiainen, Jeff Neff, and I had fun planning the retro-Hollywood style passed hors d’oevres we served.

Maria, Leena Tukiainen, Jeff Neff, and I had fun planning the retro-Hollywood style passed hors d’oevres we served.

Here is the menu we came up with (prepared by volunteers in my kitchen):

Kon Tiki Chicken Salad on Toast Rounds

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Butternut Squash in Demitasse

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Mini Mushroom Quiches

Roman Holiday Goat Cheese Tomato Tarts

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Pate California Grape Croustades

Ham Asparagus Radish Roulades

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Albacore/ Salmon Tea Sandwiches

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Smoked Salmon Cucumber Mini Bagel Bites

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Sweet Gluten Free Mini Treats from (Finnish) Natural Baking Company

Mimosas

Coppola Claret

Woodbridge Sauvignon Blanc

European Roast Coffee

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Paul Halme, Esq. (Head of the Paloheimo Foundation) warmly welcome the Guest of Honor and all enthusiastic attendees.  All enjoyed tasting the delicious Danish pastries he brought from his wife Susan’s Solvang Bakery.  Ms. Elg remembered the Paloheimo family fondly, having spent time with the family when they lived in the mansion during her days here.

Paul Halme, Esq. (Head of the Paloheimo Foundation) warmly welcome the Guest of Honor and all enthusiastic attendees.

Paul Halme, Esq. (Head of the Paloheimo Foundation) warmly welcome the Guest of Honor and all enthusiastic attendees.

Paul presented Ms. Elg with a beautifully framed Arnefelt piece usually reserved for FFN trustees.

As part of her visit to Los Angeles, the gracious and generous “divine Ms. Elg” donated her beautiful Finnish national costume to the Finlandia Foundation.  It will have its permanent home at the Tupa.

As part of her visit to Los Angeles, the gracious and generous “divine Ms. Elg” donated her beautiful Finnish national costume to the Finlandia Foundation

As part of her visit to Los Angeles, the gracious and generous “divine Ms. Elg” donated her beautiful Finnish national costume to the Finlandia Foundation

Being close up to such a big star was such fun.  We love you, Taina!!  Thanks for coming.  Thanks for starring at our event!!!!!

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Next Up

The Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation had its “Scholarship Picnic” –the annual fundraiser usually held in the Gardens, the Curtin House, or the Giddings Room.

When I pulled up to get into the normal parking lot, there were security guards, catering trucks, and lots of people scurrying about.  It looked like a very big turnout for the L.A.F.F. event!  They were turning people away from the parking lot.

When I pulled up to get into the normal parking lot, there were security guards, catering trucks, and lots of people scurrying about.

When I pulled up to get into the normal parking lot, there were security guards, catering trucks, and lots of people scurrying about.

It was a movie shoot!  Why not—this is Hollywood!

The Grand Portico of The Feynes Mansion was covered in black cloth (used to block sunlight or to simulate nighttime for inside shots).  What was last year’s picnic venue was swarming with the actors and crew so it was blocked off from our use, too.  The Curtin House was also closed.

The Grand Portico of The Feynes Mansion was covered in black cloth (used to block sunlight or to simulate nighttime for inside shots).

The Grand Portico of The Feynes Mansion was covered in black cloth (used to block sunlight or to simulate nighttime for inside shots).

Resilient and resourceful as Finns are, the LAFF members made the Tupa a cozy, friendly, and fun venue for the luncheon.  We all got ‘up close and personal’ with the newly gifted Taina Elg National Costume.  Valerie Jokela struck some poses for photos with the costume, aided by Sirvo who was celebrating a birthday.

Resilient and resourceful as Finns are, the LAFF members made the Tupa a cozy, friendly, and fun venue for the luncheon.

Resilient and resourceful as Finns are, the LAFF members made the Tupa a cozy, friendly, and fun venue for the luncheon.

 

We all got ‘up close and personal’ with the newly gifted Taina Elg National Costume. Valerie Jokela struck some poses for photos with the costume, aided by Sirvo who was celebrating a birthday.

We all got ‘up close and personal’ with the newly gifted Taina Elg National Costume. Valerie Jokela struck some poses for photos with the costume, aided by Sirvo who was celebrating a birthday.

The sounds of our wonderful music brought in some ‘movie people’ to listen and compliment! Your ever-curious interrogator just had to ask what was being filmed.  The answer: a Barbie commercial!    Getting ready for the Christmas season, I suppose—Things Are Closer/Bigger  Than They Appear.  I did see some props looking like parts of a merry-go-round in the trucks.

Speaking of the Carousel: the treasure on the Santa Monica Pier is having its 100th birthday!  It is older than Finland by a hair!  It is a fun famous landmark.  Marilyn Monroe was a frequent visitor.  The movie The Sting was filmed there.

Sometimes it is fun to look back and find that Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear!!!

Sometimes it is important to look back.  I heard a Finn recently quoted as saying:  “Finns don’t look in the rear view mirror”.

I take issue with this “…look-Ma-no-hands-until-you-hit-the-wall” approach.  My new rear view mirrors remind me that things are bigger and closer than they appear sometimes.  As Finland approaches her Centennial, let us at least look in our collective, historical rear view mirror with reverence and appreciation for what was done so well and with such great sacrifice by our fore fathers.

And, let us never forget the Veterans and Lottas who got us to this point!

Does it matter if it was Winston Churchill who said: “…he who does not recognize the past is bound to repeat it!”  Sometimes, Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear.

Big Love Sandwich Cake

I have heard from many local Finns that they have not made and/or are intimidated about making the traditional Finnish Sandwich Cake.

This month’s recipe is more of a pictorial assembly instruction than a recipe of how I make mine. It is great for summer entertaining, showers, weddings, and the like.

This month’s recipe is more of a pictorial assembly instruction than a recipe of how I make mine. It is great for summer entertaining, showers, weddings, and the like.

This month’s recipe is more of a pictorial assembly instruction than a recipe of how I make mine. It is great for summer entertaining, showers, weddings, and the like.

You can do it and should do it!  Show your love!!  You will blow away your Finnish and non-Finnish guests when you serve this at a tea party, wedding, baby shower, memorial service, or bring it to a potluck.  Your Sisu will rise to meet your challenges; your creativity will take over and you will have fun with it!

Be sure you have a large empty shelf available in your refrigerator for the assembled cake as it needs to be chilled overnight.  [It is 112º F in Beverly Hills as this is being written!]  A large tray or foil covered piece of heavy cardboard will be needed.

Ingredients You Will Need:

2 Fillings of your choice: chicken salad, egg salad*, ham salad, salmon salad, tuna salad**, lobster salad, olive tapenade, or the like.  Use your own favorite recipes.  I have given 2 favorites.  The amounts are approximate.  You will know when you get to a nice spreadable consistency in your fillings.

Butter: about a pound of salted butter softened to room temperature to spread on bread slices

Bread: apologies to my homeland, but this time use American white bread [what my father used to call vaahtokumi (foam rubber).  He really missed his hapanleipä in the early days here.]. American white sandwich bread is sold in every store here.  It works.

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Here is a great tip: If you can find a bakery outlet store near you that sells what my dad jokingly called “used bread” –really, “day-old” product sold at a discount.  You will have scored a bargain and have a perfect ingredient.  The day old white bread will not be mushy, but will be the right consistency to be trimmed and assembled for your masterpiece.  Some chain grocery stores have a discount rack near the back of a store for overripe produce and used bread.  It helps to know where to look to get “lucky”!  If worse comes to worse, buy new bags of bread a few days before you need them!

Mayonnaise: lots for frosting and decorating.  Good quality preferred since it is a prominent flavor.

Garnishes: radishes, chives, shrimp, olives, parsley, cucumber, fresh dill, salmon roses, lemon slices, and/or whatever you think fun or pretty!

* Egg Salad: 1 dozen large, peeled, hard boiled eggs; about 3 cups of good mayonnaise; 3 tablespoons of Dijon mustard; 1 teaspoon curry powder; salt and pepper to taste.  Chop all ingredients fine or process in food processor.  [There may be filling remaining—refrigerate—tomorrow’s lunch is made!]

** Tuna Salad:  1 giant can (66.05 ounces) water packed Tuna; 3 cups good mayonnaise; finely chopped celery; 4 tablespoons pickle relish; pepper and garlic salt to taste; 1 tablespoon dried dill.  Chop all ingredients fine or process in food processor.  [There will be filling remaining—refrigerate—tomorrow’s dinner is made!]

FUN TIME!!!

Now it is time to get closer.  You are about to create a Finnish Big Love Sandwich Cake!

If you have friends or children around to join you, this is a great, rewarding, fun time.

After removing crusts from bread by knife, line the pieces up on the first layer of your creation. Lightly butter each layer on the top to prevent leakage of the filling.  Put on first filling, spreading evenly to the edges.

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Put on a second layer of crustless bread squares.  Butter with offset spatula and add second filling, as above.

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Place third portion of bread squares on top of second filling.  Continue to build layers as above.  Or, if you like, stop here.   Place ‘gently’ moistened paper towels over the sandwich cake; wrap in cling film; and keep refrigerated overnight.

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Party Time:

Frost cake with Mayonnaise; decorate with squiggles, stars, or whatever with a cake decorating bag.

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Place garnishes.

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Step back—admire your creation!!—applaud your helpers!!!

You made it!!!!

AFTERWORD

Have a nice, relaxing and most of all, fun Summer!

From Finland to Stardom, an Afternoon with Actress Taina Elg

From Finland to Stardom: An Evening with Taina Elg
Event photos by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

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Finlandia Foundation hosted ‘From Finland to Stardom: An Evening with Taina Elg’. Through anecdotes, Ms. Elg offered a behind-the-scenes glimpse of life as a young star at MGM Studios and life in Hollywood. She spoked candidly of her experiences and touched on her view of the film industry today.

Taina Elg, who won two Golden Globes, including one for her role in the 1957 film Les Girls starring Gene Kelly, told her story in an intimate interview format conducted by Heli Sirviö, a Finnish television and stage actress.

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AROUND LA WITH AVA®: A DATE FOR LIFE


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Los Angeles is a city of great love stories—real and fantasy.  Let me tell you one of them.  After all, February 2016 has Valentine’s Day and Sadie Hawkins’ Day—that every 4 year phenomenon of a 29th day Leap Year.  [In days of yore, on Sadie Hawkins’ Day a woman/girl was permitted to ask a man/guy for a date.  Yes, the world has changed.]

Sadie Hawkins Day was first mentioned in the November 15, 1937 "Li'l Abner" daily strip.

Sadie Hawkins Day was first mentioned in the November 15, 1937 “Li’l Abner” daily strip.

Even in our ‘hook-up’ environment, preliminaries usually begin with a “date”.

A word with multiple meanings, “date” in its simplest form is the fruit of the palm tree (taateli).  Date can mean (treffit) –a potentially romantic meeting between two individuals.  The Internet and all of its iterations has redefined “dating”, but for our purposes we will use its simplest, old-fashioned form where a lady or girl was invited by a gentleman or boy for some alone time with an agreed-upon starting hour, on a specific day, for a shared activity such as a meal, a movie, a concert, or a prom. Both parties played by the same rules hoping to make a romantic connection leading to a possible future relationship—or, at least, another date.  Hollywood made millions on movies of the varieties of good, bad, tragedy, and comedy premises.  My date story is of the ‘50s “… and they lived happily ever after” genre.

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But, for an added ‘hook’, there is a palm tree involved!

Our beloved City of Angels is known for its palm trees.  Finns have called it missä palmut huivuu –the place where the palm trees sway.  There are many species of palm trees, but the most prevalent here are the tall coconut and date palms.  If you drive around west LA and Santa Monica, you will see these amazing, tall, skinny ‘towers’ bending and swaying with the wind.  Their supernatural structures endure the Santa Ana winds and other environmental issues in seeming defiance of the laws of nature and physics with a fairly small root structure.  Their inner fortitude seems to say: “I belong here.  I can take it.  I am here to stay.”

Each morning, my first view at first light is of a palm tree across the street.  The palm is probably approaching 150 feet tall, rising majestically above all other trees and landscape in the neighborhood.  Let me tell you the love story behind that palm tree.

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AROUND LA WITH AVA®: A Talk at the Tupa

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AROUND LA WITH AVA®: A Talk at the Tupa

Following is the text of a presentation made by Ava Anttila to the Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation at the Pasadena [CA] Museum of History on October 18, 2015.

It is so wonderful to be here today!! The Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation has a special place in my heart. Thank you for inviting me.

As a Finnish born/American educated immigrant, I have consistently sought the company of ‘Friends of Finland’ in my new home. I began my search early [age 7—-seems like yesterday!!].

I have been fortunate to have been consistently successful in finding others who cherish their Finnish heritage, ancestry, culture, and language. Actually, as a little girl, my primary challenge was to learn the new language everyone around me spoke—except for my Parents!

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Typically ‘Finnish shy’, I learned SISU before I knew how to spell the word—in either Finnish or English. Gone were the days of blond-haired, blue-eyed friends at the French School my Uncle ran in Helsinki!! I was a stranger in a strange land—my immersion French did me no good.   Now, I stand here before you giving a speech in English with three degrees from good American schools behind my name.

In other words, I am just like you and your kin who made the long trip, found a new home, and learned new ways. I was fortunate in other aspects, as well.   My Parents continued to use Finnish as the household language while they learned the words and ways of the worlds in which they now worked. Also, I soon learned that my American friends did not care that Santa was Finnish and came to our home on Christmas Eve—as long as he made it to their house before dawn!

Life happened.

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